SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Several Utah vape shops sued the state’s Department of Health over its emergency rule restricting the sale of flavored e-cigarettes amid a national outbreak of lung damage linked to vaping.

In the lawsuit filed Monday, retailers claimed there is no
evidence to suggest flavored e-cigarettes are causing lung damage and
that the new rule could hurt business.

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

The rule,
which took effect Monday, bans general tobacco retailers including
grocery stores, pharmacies and gas stations from selling flavored
e-cigarette products. All tobacco sellers are required to post notices
about the danger of vaping unregulated THC, the high-producing
ingredient in marijuana that’s been linked to most lung-damage cases in

All vape shops involved in the lawsuit are general tobacco
retailers that can no longer sell flavored vape products under the rule.

retailers said the health department enacted the rule without public
comment and that the ban would cause “irreparable harm to their business
reputation” to the point that they would be “forced to close their

Utah has been hit especially hard in the national
outbreak. State health officials have identified 98 cases and one person
has died. Many patients are in their 20s and 30s.

“We know many
young people who vape THC initially vape nicotine, especially flavored
nicotine,” Joseph Miner, executive director of the state health
department, said in a recent statement. “Moving these products to
age-restricted specialty shops will restrict young people’s access to
them and can reduce the number of users who eventually move on to vaping

Tom Hudachko, a department of health spokesman, declined to
respond to the lawsuit’s claims but said stopping the outbreak is the
top priority. He said reducing young people’s access to nicotine vaping
and THC products is key.

The U.S. has seen an explosion in youth
vaping in recent years, with critics saying the industry is marketing
flavors that appeal to teens.

President Donald Trump’s administration has proposed a sweeping ban on e-cigarette flavors. Several states have already done so.

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

Symptoms include coughing, shortness of breath, chest pain, fatigue, nausea and vomiting.

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

By Morgan Smith

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