WESTFIELD, NJ — The town’s Board of Health is discussing stricter regulations for vaping following the first New Jersey death associated with a national outbreak of illness linked to electronic smoking devices.
The state Health Department announced last week the death of a North Jersey woman at which time it said the number of people with serious lung disease linked to vaping in New Jersey had risen to 14 people and the department was investigating 32 reports of severe lung disease.
While the governor’s Electronic Smoking Device Task Force recommended stricter safeguards statewide for vaping, the Westfield Board of Health on Monday decided it would not wait for state regulators to draft stricter rules for the sale of vaping devices within the town.
Westfield Regional Health Department Director Megan Avallone said she reached out to state officials for a timeline on implementing the taskforce's advice but had not received a response as of Monday’s meeting.
“Are we realistically looking at six months? Are we looking at a year? Are we looking at more than that?” she asked. “I didn’t get a call back … so based on that I think we probably should move forward.”
Westfield health officials have discussed regulations modeled after those Morristown approved in May. On Monday, the Westfield officials discussed introducing a draft of the regulation in November and approving it in December.
Avallone, who is the president of the New Jersey Association of County and City Health Officials, said that New Jersey regulators are considering increasing compliance checks by the state and prohibiting advertising of and the sale of vaping products that come in a covert form.
“These products come in things that are masked,” she said. “They come in a pen. They look like a watch, which as a parent is pretty scary because we don’t even know what to look for. So they’re talking about a penalty of up to $20,000.”
The state taskforce recommended taking vaping products out of gas stations and convenience stores, she said. “When they had their hearings in September, nobody spoke out against this regulation.”
Click here to read the NJ Electronic Smoking Device Task Force’s full report.
The taskforce also discussed developing a statewide registry for sellers of vaping products and requiring retailers to use electronic age verification, Avallone said.
Elizabeth Talmont, the board's vice president, asked if Westfield could implement stronger penalties than that at the state level to stop people from selling vaping devices to people under 21.
“If it’s not a deterrent, then it’s not helping,” Talmont said. “So what are our options for increasing the penalty?”
Avallone answered that one could make a case for the state increasing fines and fees but that the municipality would likely have to stick to that fee schedule.
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