SALT LAKE CITY -- The Utah Department of Health has published its proposed rules to regulate vaping and e-cigarette products.
The administrative rules, published on New Year's Day, are similar to ones struck down by a judge last year. They declare that all stores that sell e-cigarette products prominently display a "mandatory nicotine warning sign, informing youth, parents and the general public that vaping nicotine can cause addiction and harm the developing brain."
The Utah Department of Health also seeks to block flavored vape juices to licensed specialty tobacco stores. That would kick the flavors out of a number of vape shops and convenience stores. Those businesses could still sell non-flavored vape products, but only if they display that warning sign. If approved, the rule goes into effect in March 31, 2020.
In justifying the rule, the Utah Department of Health cited high youth adoption rates for vaping.
"The use of electronic-cigarette products among youth continues to increase, which is a cause for concern for two reasons; first, the high levels of nicotine contained in many electronic-cigarettes can damage the developing adolescent brain; and second, research has shown that electronic-cigarette use in youth can lead to traditional tobacco and other substance use later in life," the agency wrote, later adding:
"Restricting the sale of flavored electronic-cigarette products and flavored electronic-cigarette substances to age-restricted retail tobacco specialty businesses, limits access to these products to 10% of Utah's tobacco retail businesses or approximately 170 of Utah's nearly 1,700 total tobacco retailers."
The proposed rule is sure to draw a fight, and another potential legal challenge from vape shops and convenience stores. The Utah Vapor Business Association, which represents a number of them, sued the Utah Department of Health last year after the agency implemented similar restrictions under an "emergency rule" in response to numerous cases of vaping-related lung injury. A judge granted the UVBA's request for a restraining order, finding the health department overstepped its authority to implement such restrictions.
The majority of the hospitalizations for vaping-related lung injury has been tied to black market THC cartridges.
"It is literally the same thing we sued over. They changed nothing," Juan Bravo, the president of the UVBA, told FOX 13. "I don’t think we changed, either."
He said his group was not opposing the warning signs, but warned that the other aspects of the rule including the removal of flavored juices and other restrictions on stores.
"We're all for youth prevention and restricting youth access but we’re not about having businesses operating legally being put out of business," Bravo said. "It’s un-American and it's wrong."
The Utah Department of Health has scheduled a Jan. 22 public hearing on the proposed rule. After that, the agency reviews the comments and can either pull it back for modifications (triggering another round of public comment), adopt it or reject it.
Vaping is set to be a hot topic on Utah's Capitol Hill during the 2020 legislative session that starts later this month. The UVBA told FOX 13 it anticipates as many as 20 bills targeting vaping and e-cigarettes. Some raise taxes, some implement restrictions for youth while one bill seeks an outright ban.
Read the proposed rule here: