Judge in Utah halts emergency ban on flavored e-cigarette juices

Local vape shops in Utah will temporarily be allowed to sell flavored e-cigarette juices, a judge ruled Monday.

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Utah District Court Judge Keith Kelly temporarily overturned the emergency rule banning the sale of flavored vape juices, saying a state cannot immediately enact an emergency ban on the products for general retailers, according to The Salt Lake Tribune.

The case is one of many playing out across the country as state governments rush to crack down on the industry after vape-related deaths.

The rule, which took effect on Oct. 22, originally banned general tobacco retailers including grocery stores, pharmacies and gas stations from selling flavored e-cigarette products amid a national outbreak of lung damage linked to vaping. As part of the ban, all tobacco sellers were required to post notices about the danger of vaping unregulated THC, the ingredient in marijuana that's been linked to most lung-damage cases.

Several Utah vape shops responded by suing the state's Department of Health, claiming there is no evidence to suggest flavored e-cigarettes are causing lung damage and that the ban would cause "irreparable harm to their business reputation" to the point that they would be "forced to close their businesses."

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Recent cases of lung damage, they argued, are instead caused by "these persons' use of black-market THC cartridges," according to the lawsuit.

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Despite the ruling Monday, the state health department said they will continue with other efforts to "stop this outbreak and to protect the public's health."

The department tweeted in part, "Our top priority is stopping the outbreak of vaping-associated lung injuries. We believe the emergency rule is one of the tools that can help us achieve that goal."

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Nearly 1,500 people across the country have become sick from vaping, and 33 people have died, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported.

President Trump's administration has proposed a sweeping ban on e-cigarette flavors in response to the deaths. Several states have already done so.

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Health officials throughout the country are advising people not to use any vaping product until the cause of the illnesses is better understood.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.