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Press Releases - County Council

Montgomery County Council authorizes lawsuit against electronic cigarette manufacturers and distributors

For Immediate Release: Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Council also has three bills and associated County Board of Health regulations pending to combat and regulate electronic cigarette distribution

ROCKVILLE, Md., Oct. 15, 2019—Council President Nancy Navarro issued the following statement on behalf of the Council regarding the lawsuit filed in Federal Court against electronic cigarette (e-cigarette) manufacturers and distributors for violating Maryland and federal law by aggressively marketing their addictive e-cigarettes to minors. The complaint was filed on Oct. 11 against Juul Labs and Altria Group, which is the parent company of Philip Morris USA. Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd, LLP is serving as special legal counsel for the County in this case.

“The Council authorizes taking legal action against Juul Labs and Altria Group. This lawsuit supports our ongoing efforts to protect our community members from the public health impacts associated with e-cigarette products and vaping. While the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Federal Drug Administration (FDA), state and local health departments are investigating the multistate outbreak of lung injuries and deaths associated with vaping products, Montgomery County is taking proactive steps through the legislative process and the courts to help protect our community members from lung related illnesses and addiction. There are currently three pieces of legislation and associated County Board of Health regulations pending at the Council to limit the distribution of e-cigarettes that are focused on keeping vaping products out of the hands of our young people.

“According to the CDC there have been nearly 1,300 cases of lung injuries associated with the use of e-cigarettes or vaping products in 49 states and 26 confirmed deaths in 21 states. Clearly legal action is needed to help curb this ever-expanding public health crisis. The hope is that the County can hold the defendant companies responsible for causing the underage vaping epidemic in our community and curbing the aggressive marketing of e-cigarettes.”

In Sept. and Oct. the Montgomery County Council introduced several pieces of legislation and associated County Board of Health regulations covering the distribution of e-cigarettes.

On Sept. 17 Councilmembers Gabe Albornoz and Craig Rice introduced Bill 29-19, Health and Sanitation – Electronic Cigarettes – Distribution, and a companion Zoning Text Amendment 19-06, Vape Shops, which would prohibit manufacturers of e-cigarettes from distributing them to retail stores within a half mile of a middle or high school. All other Councilmembers are cosponsors of both the bill and zoning text amendment. The goal of these measures is to protect the health of young people and limit their ability to purchase nicotine vaping products. It is illegal for retailers to sell such products to County residents under the age of 21, with the exemption of active duty service members over the age of 18.

On Sept. 24 Councilmembers Tom Hucker and Gabe Albornoz introduced Bill 31-19, Health and Sanitation – Electronic Cigarettes – Distribution, which would prohibit the distribution of any tobacco product, coupon redeemable for a tobacco product, cigarette rolling paper or electronic cigarette to any individual under 21 except under certain circumstances. Bill 31-19 also would prohibit an individual under 21 from using or possessing a tobacco product or electronic cigarette except under certain circumstances. Councilmember Craig Rice, Council Vice President Sidney Katz, Councilmembers Hans Riemer, Evan Glass, Will Jawando and Council President Nancy Navarro are all cosponsors. The goal of this legislation is to update County law to reflect state law changes and provide an enforcement mechanism for young people using and possessing tobacco products and electronic cigarettes.

On Oct. 1 Councilmembers Riemer and Albornoz introduced Bill 32-19, Health and Sanitation – Flavored Electronic Cigarettes, which would prohibit electronic smoking device manufacturers from distributing flavored electronic cigarettes to retail stores within a mile of any middle or high school, library, park, playground or recreational facility in the County. Councilmember Hucker, Council President Navarro, Council Vice President Katz and Councilmembers Jawando and Glass are cosponsors. The goal of this legislation is to protect the health of young people and limit their ability to purchase nicotine vaping products.


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Release ID: 19-334
Media Contact: Sonya Healy 240-777-7926 , Juan Jovel 240-777-7931