Lawsuit seeks to block Montana ban on flavored e-cigarettes

Friday, October 18, 2019

HAMILTON (AP) — Three Montana vape shops and an industry group are suing to block a temporary ban on the sale of flavored electronic cigarettes from going into effect statewide next week.

The lawsuit filed Thursday in state court in Ravalli County says the 120-day ban on e-cigarettes is an overly restrictive reaction to a national outbreak of vaping-related illnesses and deaths the plaintiffs say may be caused by illegal black-market products.

The plaintiffs are asking a judge for an injunction that would block the ban from taking effect on Tuesday. They said state officials failed to provide adequate public notice and acted arbitrarily and capriciously by not including tobacco cigarettes in the ban.

Gov. Steve Bullock, a Democrat, has said the emergency rules that establish the ban are necessary while officials investigate the cause of the vaping-related pulmonary illnesses that have affected more than 1,300 people nationwide, including at least two cases and one death in Montana.

The Ravalli Republic reports the lawsuit by the Montana Smoke Free Association, Freedom Vapes, Liberty Smoke and UBlaze vapor said the ban could force more than 20 Montana businesses to close.

The business owners said the pulmonary illnesses could be the result of the “illicit addition” of THC or marijuana products into legal vaping products. THC and marijuana are not included as ingredients in any of the products sold by the businesses involved in the lawsuit, according to the plaintiffs.

The ban would not only harm the businesses, but people who use e-cigarettes to quit tobacco products, the lawsuit said.

Freedom Vapes co-owner Ron Marshall said he is one of those people, having used what he and the other plaintiffs called ENDS, or electronic nicotine delivery systems, to quit his own two-pack-aday habit.