Tennessee governor pushes back on possible vaping bans

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – The state’s largest vaping retailer welcomes the measured approach from Governor Bill Lee concerning a ban on its products.

This comes as a long list of state health organizations urged some temporary vaping restrictions.

The Tennessee Department of Health says there have been 39 vaping related illnesses reported in Tennessee since early August, but no deaths.

Those numbers and other higher numbers nationwide led a group of health care groups spearheaded by the Tennessee Medical Association to send a letter to Governor Bill Lee and other top legislative leaders “to take a firm stance…by implementing an emergency temporary measure to restrict Tennessee youth from obtaining vaping products.”

The governor Tuesday was asked if he might consider a ban.

“It’s a real serious subject that there is not a lot of data on,” said the governor. “There is not a lot of clear understanding yet. The only understanding that we have that there is an impending health crisis.”

The Tennessee Medical Association (TMA) said it supports a ban of the vaping products, but wants the Lee Administration to “engage on the issue of what’s causing the vaping deaths” says Russ Miller, CEO of the TMA.

“The experts don’t know why this is happening,” added the governor. “Banning things short of knowing if its actually that thing causing that problem I think is inappropriate, but we need to track it.”

In response to the recent vaping crisis, other voices are emerging.

“I think the governor’s approach of gathering facts is very important,” said Bo Landry, who is Chief Operating Officer of Saffire Vapor, which bills itself as the largest vaping retailer in Tennessee.

He draws a distinction he hopes is understood as people, lawmakers, and health providers look for answers.

Landry cites federal agencies that the vaping illnesses are not coming from the kind of products in his stores.

Its been reported by the CDC and the FDA that the majority of the illnesses have been from illegal THC cartridges that are purchased on the street and that is a grave concern to us too,” added Landry.

He says since the vaping illnesses emerged in early August, business at Saffire’s 24 stores in Tennessee and Kentucky has dropped 28%.

More numbers about vaping illnesses statewide come out Thursday, and they are expected to go up says a spokesperson with the Tennessee state health department.

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