Nicotine Vape Users: What You Need to Know Now

Governor Charlie Baker recently imposed a temporary statewide ban on the sale of both flavored and unflavored nicotine and THC vaping products. In conjunction with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH), Gov. Baker declared the recent spike in both confirmed and suspected cases of vaping-related lung illness to be a public health emergency.

The ban, which lasts through January 25, 2020, went into immediate effect, making it illegal to sell vaping products in retail stores and online.

In mid-September, the DPH made it mandatory for Massachusetts physicians to report cases of vape-related illness to the state. Since then, the DPH says 61 cases have been reported; 5 of those cases were in turn reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

As legislators debate the future of vaping tobacco in Massachusetts over the next few months, regular users of vaporized tobacco will find themselves without a way to obtain nicotine vape products at retail stores.

Don’t turn to unregulated products

With access to vape products at least temporarily restricted, many Massachusetts residents may be tempted to turn to the Internet or other black market sites to obtain vape products that contain nicotine.

Use of black-market products or devices is discouraged, as labeling may misrepresent actual contents or the product may be adulterated, increasing the health risks. Do not vaporize other substances, including THC products, as this may increase health risk to the user.

Vape products, including cartridges, oils, and pens, should only be purchased from sources regulated and approved by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA).

Reconsider your connection to vape and e-cigarette products

While many vape or e-cigarette users consider these products to be a safer alternative to smoking traditional cigarettes, many of the most popular versions of these products do contain nicotine. In fact, some popular e-cigarette cartridges have as much nicotine as an entire pack of cigarettes.

Users of vaporized nicotine may have physical dependence to nicotine, and therefore may have withdrawal symptoms upon cessation.

Symptoms of nicotine withdrawal include headaches, insomnia, increased hunger, weight gain, irritability, and depression.

Rather than returning to using or starting to smoke traditional cigarettes, I encourage users to discuss their nicotine use habits with their health care professional, who can help determine if nicotine withdrawal and/or nicotine use disorder are present.

Importantly, a professional can help you access prescription nicotine products such as gum, patches, lozenges, or other FDA-approved medications to quit nicotine such as varenicline or bupropion.

Todd Kerensky, MD is Medical Director of Addiction Medicine and Hospitalist at South Shore Health and is President-elect of the Massachusetts Society of Addiction Medicine.