Gov. Phil Murphy announced the creation of a task force to blunt hazards associated with electronic cigarettes.
The task force, which will be led by Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli, will submit its report recommending executive and legislative actions to prevent youth e-cigarette use and reduce instances of vape-related illnesses to the governor on or before Oct. 3.
“There is no safe vape. The only safe alternative to smoking is not smoking, period, full stop,” Murphy said. “We are joining a growing number of states and the federal government compelled to take on vaping given the rash of emerging lung disease cases associated with e-cigarette use.”
Murphy’s action, which has the backing of Democratic caucus leaders and Health Committee chairman in both chambers of the legislature, comes amidst a spate of vape-related pulmonary illnesses.
Health officials across the nation are examining more than 450 cases of such illnesses, including six that have ended in death. Three such cases have been confirmed in New Jersey, though none of those have been fatal, and 19 others are being investigated.
It’s not clear at this time whether nicotine vapes are the cause of the illnesses, and some research has pointed to black-market marijuana cartridges as the cause of the ailments.
The state is not halting the sale of medical marijuana vapor catridges.
“Let me be perfectly clear: Many people have no idea what chemicals their vape pen is putting into their bodies. The FDA hasn’t had the ability to fully test the safety of these products,” Murphy said, referring to e-cigarettes.
Nicotine vape fluid typically includes a small number of ingredients. Propylene glycol vegetable glycerin account for the majority of the fluid. Small amounts of nicotine are also present, though modern e-cigarettes, like Juuls, contain relatively-high concentrations of nicotine.
It is often unclear what chemicals are included in vape fluid flavorings.
Other chemicals have been added to vape fluid at times.
In 2015, the e-liquid company Cuttwood sold a juice containing titanium dioxide. The Food and Drug Administration said the chemical was safe for ingestion, but it made no such determination for inhalation.
The state attorney general’s office has requested information from 15 electronic cigarette firms to determine whether they are marketing their products toward minors. Such marketing is illegal in New Jersey.
The legislature is already moving to ban the sale of flavored nicotine fluid, including menthol fluid.
Menthol cigarettes are the only type of flavored cigarettes that can be legally sold in the state.