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Utah lawmaker calls for outright ban on all e-cigarette, vaping products

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A Utah lawmaker plans to write legislation that would ban all e-cigarette and vaping products in Utah. Rep. Paul Ray, R-District 13, said he wants all vaping products to be banned, if possible. (Photo: KUTV FILE)

A Utah lawmaker plans to write legislation that would ban all e-cigarette and vaping products in Utah.

Rep. Paul Ray, R-District 13, said he wants all vaping products to be banned, if possible. If fellow lawmakers won't approve such a ban, Ray said he wants to ban products that aren't part of a "closed system."

The "closed system" referred to cartridges like those used with Juuls or similar systems, Ray clarified in a press conference at the state Capitol.

"If I can ban the entire product, I will," Ray said.

Ray cited the results of laboratory testing of e-cigarette liquids sold in Salt Lake County, which revealed that 84% of products tested contained opioids or illicit drugs.

The samples were purchased from vape shops in Salt Lake County, according to a press release sent to media Wednesday afternoon.

The lab that conducted the testing, Beechtree Diagnostics Lab, did so out of its own interest, Ray said, and the state did not pay for testing. Sampling was done from February through April of this year. Twelve vape juices were tested, and the company found 10 contained drugs.

2News reporter Jeremy Harris talked to Beechtree Diagnostics about its findings. He'll explain why the lab says these numbers should not be taken as evidence, tonight on 2News at 10.

Testing was prompted after individuals participating in rehabilitation programs tested positive for drugs, despite swearing they had not used drugs, said Rep. Eric Hutchings, R-District 38.

Ray said he intends to submit legislation in the upcoming session that would make it legal for only e-cigarette cartridges to be sold in Utah, with the tobacco tax imposed on those sales. He also wants to mandate inspection of all cartridges by the health department, and wants to ban all flavored e-cigarette products, including menthol and mint, he said.

"An outright ban on everything is what I will look for in the session," he said.

The announcement comes after at least 455 Americans were sickened by a respiratory illness believed to be caused by vaping. So far, at least six people have died.

Thirty-five Utahns have been sickened by the respiratory illness, but none have died, according to the most recent numbers released by Utah health officials on Monday. Twelve more potential cases are being investigated by the Utah Department of Health.

On Tuesday, Sen. Mitt Romney called on the FDA to consider issuing a recall of e-cigarette products in light of growing concern over their safety.

On Wednesday, President Donald Trump said his administration would propose banning flavors used in e-cigarette products. The proposal would only apply to nicotine vaping products, which are regulated by the FDA, the Associated Press reports.

Ray said he would request the Utah Attorney General's Office to consider filing a lawsuit against e-cigarette companies, if advisable, to recover healthcare costs of those sickened by e-cigarettes.

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