The Montana Department of Health and Human Services on Tuesday proposed a rule notice to eliminate the sale of all flavored e-cigarettes to youth.

Program Manager for the Montana Tobacco Use Prevention Program, Nicole Aune, explained the proposal.

“In December of 2018, the U.S. Surgeon General first declared youth e-cigarette use an epidemic in the nation,” said Aune. “Here in Montana we currently have 30 percent of our high school students using these e-cigarettes, and nearly 60 percent have tried them, and that’s mostly due to the flavors.”

Aune provided an even more alarming statistic.

“96 percent of youth who use e-cigarettes started with a flavored product,” she said. “70 percent of those who use e-cigarettes say that they use them because of the flavor. We’re really trying to close that on-ramp to youth e-cigarette use in the long run by eliminating flavors that entice youth and lure them into starting.”

Staff Attorney for DPHHS Robert Lishman explained how the rule to eliminate sales of flavored e-cigarettes would be established.

“Under state law, the Montana Administrative Procedure Act, there will be a public hearing on July 16, and from now until July 24 there will be a period to submit written comments,” said Lishman. “The department will then consider those comments and then decide whether the rules will be adopted as proposed, or adopted with some type of amendments. The earliest the rule could take effect would ne August 8.”

Lishman then described how the ban will be enforced throughout the state.

“The ban would be enforced similarly to the previous emergency rule, so both the department and local health authorities could enforce the rules through a complaint based process as well as following up on those complaints with on-site inspections.

Lishman also said the DPHHS is ready to answer any legal actions taken by vape store advocacy groups that would attempt to challenge or overturn the ban.