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State plans to enforce flavored e-cig ban soon as court ruling expires
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State plans to enforce flavored e-cig ban soon as court ruling expires

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Flavored vaping products could be coming off Montana shelves as soon as next week. 

State health officials announced they plan to enforce the ban, first announced by Gov. Steve Bullock in October, beginning Dec. 18, according to a press release from the Department of Health and Human Services. 

The move had been blocked by a Ravalli County judge, but that ruling expired, state officials said. A group of Montana vape shops argued the ban was illegal, and that it would effectively put them out of business. 

Several states have moved to block vaping products, either through emergency rules like Bullock's or through new laws. Some of those have been challenged in court. A federal flavored vaping ban announced by President Donald Trump in September hasn't gotten close to implementation. 

An outbreak of vaping-related severe lung illnesses sharpened concerns about the health effects of vaping. As of Dec. 10, 52 people have died and 2,409 people have been sickened in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control, including a death in Montana. 

Montana officials have cited continued illnesses and increased vaping among kids as reasons for the ban. 

Federal officials have zeroed in on products containing THC as the likely culprit of the illnesses, but have warned that there may be more than one cause of the illnesses. 

At least one Montana case was identified as nicotine only, according to state officials. Health officials are also investigating new cases. 

Health officials also warn that the flavored products target kids who are easily hooked on nicotine, and that the long-term effects of vaping are uncertain. 

According to the Montana Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 58% of students tried a vaping product, up from about 46% in 2017. More than 8% of students used a vaping product daily, up from about 2% in 2017. 

The trend is erasing gains made against cigarette use. Almost 32% of students smoked a cigarette or used a vaping product; that's fewer than in 2015, but more than in 2017. 

Vape shop owners who sued the state to halt the ban have argued that a ban wouldn't stop kids from vaping, and that it would only increase the market share of legacy tobacco companies that have invested in vaping and have the financial resources to wait out a ban. They also argue that vaping is a more healthy alternative to smoking and an effective way to quit cigarettes. 

The CDC has recommended that no one vape amid the illness outbreak. The agency has conceded that vaping may be more healthy than smoking, but also says that vaping carries its own health risks and is unhealthy for those who don't already smoke. 

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