NJ Gov. Murphy announces task force to investigate vaping

On Sept. 12, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy announced the creation of a task force to recommend policy proposals on how the state should proceed with regulating E-cigarette devices.

Renee Nunez/Staff photographer

The group, officially known as the Electronic Smoking Device Task Force, was directed by Murphy to create recommendations on how New Jersey should “protect New Jersey residents from the hazards of electronic cigarettes.” The Governor authorized the formation of the working group through an Executive Order, and its recommendations are due to be released in the coming weeks.

“The rash of lung disease and death nationwide due to E-cigarette use is deeply alarming,” Murphy said, encouraging New Jersey residents to stop the use of all E-cigarette devices. “The only safe alternative to smoking is not smoking.”

Chaired by Judith Persichilli, Department of Health Acting Commissioner, the formation of the group comes on the heels of health officials around the country sounding the alarm bells on e-cigarette usage, with the Center for Disease Control investigating the multi-state outbreak of lung illnesses reported to be vape-related.

According to the CDC, 530 vaping-related illnesses have been reported in 38 states and one U.S. territory, with nearly 70% of those cases comprising of individuals between the ages of 18 to 34 years old. The agency has also confirmed seven deaths to be as a result of a vaping-related illness so far, though the number could rise to as high as nine as state health agencies continue to independently report new deaths.

Massachusetts became the first to declare a public health emergency on Tuesday in response to the crisis, embargoing the sale of all e-cigarette and marijuana vaping products until January 2020. It’s unclear right now whether or not a total vaping ban could come as a result of New Jersey’s task force.

“The purpose of this public health emergency is to temporarily pause all sales of vaping products so that we can work with our medical experts to identify what is making people sick and how to better regulate these products to protect the health of our residents,” said Governor of Massachusetts Charlie Baker at a press conference.

The explosion of vaping related deaths and illnesses has brought a wave of negative attention to Juul, an e-cigarette company whose official mission is to serve as an alternative to smoking for adult smokers. Juul has recently encountered a wave of regulatory scrutiny from federal and state governments due to the wide-spread usage of its products by young people and people who do not have a prior smoking addiction; some health officials have attributed this to the brand’s flavored pods and a sleek design. Juul CEO Kevin Burns resigned Wednesday morning as pressure continues to grow on the company from officials to do more to limit the use of the company’s e-cigarettes in children.

“I am very proud of my team’s efforts to lead the industry toward much needed category-wide action to tackle underage usage of these products, which are intended for adult smokers only,” Burns said.

Rebecca Rutherford, a junior marketing major, said that she agrees with formation of New Jersey’s task force to confront vaping, naming Juul as one of the main culprits in the crisis.

“No one picks up a Juul with the intention of quitting smoking which was the ‘purpose’ when they first came out. It only became popular once the college age population made it seem cool similar to smoking cigarettes in the 1950s,” she said, “it’s only leading to addiction and self-harm in the long run. It’s stupid.”

Nicholas Kerr can be reached at nicholas.kerr@student.shu.edu. Find him on Twitter @NickKerr99.

Author: Nicholas Kerr

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