Utah representative pushes to ban e-cigarette products, claiming study found illegal drugs in e-liquids

SALT LAKE CITY — A state representative is pursuing a ban on vaping products in the Beehive State following a sample study which found illegal drugs in e-liquids — leaving vape shop owners questioning the study’s validity.

Representative Paul Ray took to the floor of the Rotunda in the state capitol Wednesday, to share results from a study, conducted by an independent laboratory, on e-liquids.

“I asked a company, an independent lab, so not in conjunction with the state of Utah at all, to go purchase some products for me,” Ray said. “To go to some different Salt Lake County vape shops and just get some stuff off the shelves, different vape shops, different manufacturers, and let’s test these and see what we’re coming up with.”

Rep. Ray says 84-percent of the products tested positive for narcotics.

“Out of the 12 bottles, ten tested positive for opioids, PCP, barbiturates and THC, so roughly 84% of the product tested, tested positive for an illegal drug,” Ray said.

However, those in the vaping community said the findings are leaving them with more questions than answers.

“There’s a lot of controls that go into how this product is manufactured,” said Juan Bravo, president of Utah Vapor Business Association.

“Utah has some of the strictest manufacturing laws for vapor products in the nation and they borrowed it pretty directly from what the FDA suggested,” Bravo explained. “There’s only a handful of components that can go into e-liquid, you have propylene glycol, vegetable glycerin and it has to be USP grade, nicotine and food flavoring, that’s it.”

Representative Ray did not make details of the findings readily available, only a picture of the 12 bottles and a photocopy of a lined sheet of paper with hand-written notes depicting which drugs were found in which bottle.

“We don’t know exactly how much or to what extent, or even if there were false positives,” Ray said of the amount of illegal substances found in each sample.

The findings showed large accusations amid a small sample set – creating further issue for UVBA.

“I think it’s terribly misinformed,” Bravo said.

Representative Ray said the findings are part of what they believe to be a health emergency, referencing the dozens of people currently coping with vaping related illnesses, and further support for his efforts to ban e-cigarette products in the state.

“If I can ban the entire product, I will,” Ray said. “This is the tip of the iceberg, there’s going to be a lot more coming down the pipe by the time we get into session in January.”

As the next legislative session approaches, Ray said he will look for ways to ban any e-cigarette products that are not in cartridges, as well as any flavors.

“When we come into session next year, what I will be doing is running a couple of pieces of legislation,” Ray said. “Number one is we are going to require, on the systems that are left – if we can’t ban them outright, we are going to require a tax tag like we do with cigarettes.”

“I will also be looking at, personally, an all-out ban on all flavors, including menthol and mint,” Ray continued. “I will also be requesting from the state of Utah that the attorney general’s office review our policies and review what has happened and look into filing lawsuits against the industry so we can recoup the money I know we’re going to be paying in Medicaid and the harm that we’ve had to our citizens so far.”

The proposed restrictions and changes, leaving concerns over what could happen in a vape-less state.

“It would be harmful to the public health, it would be harmful to local businesses, the local economy, and it’s just uninformed,” Bravo said. “What we implore of legislature, representatives, senators, is work with us, work with us, we are not the enemy, we’re on your side.”

Representative Hutchings and DEA Agent Brian Besser were also there in support.

Fox 13 reached out to Beachtree Diagnostics, the laboratory which Representative Ray said conducted the testing, they have yet to respond.

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