SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Department of Health has delayed implementation of an emergency rule that bans the sale of flavored juices, FOX 13 has confirmed.
State health officials late Thursday gave guidance to local health departments, delaying enforcement of the rule until October 21. It previously was to go into effect on Monday.
The decision gives a brief reprieve to grocery, convenience stores and vape shops that would have been forced to stop selling flavored juices and other e-cigarette products under the rule. It also requires shops that sell e-cigarette products to post signs warning about the dangers of vaping unregulated THC products.
The Utah Vapor Business Association, which represents vape shops, feared some could be forced out of business.
“Considering so much of what’s transpiring is black market product, if they eliminate this amount of legitimate businesses it’s going to continue to further underground products,” said Beau Maxon, who owns a Park City vape shop.
The UVBA’s Juan Bravo said they were not opposed to some regulation.
“We want to work on youth prevention, on public awareness, public health,” he said. “Those are all big issues for us. But giving us until Monday doesn’t give us a whole lot of time. Hopefully in the next two weeks there will be more open dialogue.”
The guidance does not mean local health departments are required to delay implementation, but FOX 13 is told they largely have agreed to give vape shops a break for now. Meanwhile, vape shops and retailers have begun negotiating with the Utah Department of Health on a more permanent rule.
“We will be working with the Health Dept on a permanent rule that more effectively addresses issues with e-cigarettes,” said Dave Davis of the Utah Retail Merchants Association, a powerful group on Utah’s Capitol Hill that represents many major retailers in the state.
Meanwhile, lawmakers plan to introduce legislation that would make the new restrictions on vaping permanent.
A bill being co-sponsored by Rep. Jennifer Dailey-Provost, D-Salt Lake City, and Rep. Norm Thurston, R-Provo, would take an emergency rule implemented by the Utah Department of Health and make it law.
“This has reached a public health crisis,” Rep. Dailey-Provost said in an interview with FOX 13 on Thursday. “We have got a new generation who are addicted to nicotine and make no mistake about it, we do not have tools to help these kids.”
The rule and the bill seek to ban flavored vape juices and e-cigarette products from retail stores like grocery and convenience stores and move them into licensed specialty tobacco shops that have age restrictions.
“This is an adult product for adult use only,” Rep. Thurston said. “And it’s not for children, it’s not for teenagers and we hope to send a message that the reason why is it’s not good for teenagers. Nicotine is actually harmful for teenagers.”
Rep. Dailey-Provost proposed a similar bill earlier this year, but it did not pass the 2019 legislative session. She said she believed the recent outbreak of vaping-related illnesses and high numbers of youth adoption of e-cigarettes might now persuade her legislative colleagues to support it.
“If we had implemented some reasonable regulations five or six years ago we wouldn’t be here now. It wouldn’t be an issue,” she said. “But here we are.”