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Montana lawmakers will be polled on flavored vaping ban

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A vaper exhales a cloud of vapor in Helena

A man exhales a cloud of vapor in Helena in this July 13 file photo.

All 150 state legislators will be polled about a proposed rule that would ban the sale of flavored vaping products in Montana.

The rule was drafted by the state Department of Public Health and Human Services, which held a meeting in July seeking public comment on the proposal.

The department said the rule is necessary to curb the epidemic of youth e-cigarette use, which it says is fueled by flavors that target children. Vape shop owners in Montana have objected, saying the rule would severely harm their business and that they are not allowed to sell to people younger than 21 already.

The health department contends it has the authority to adopt the rule under the condition of "public health importance" allowed for in state law.

At the start of July, the Economic Affairs interim committee voted to object to the proposed rules, in an effort led by state Rep. David Bedey, R-Hamilton.

But the economic committee does not have rule oversight over the state health department; that lies with the interim Children, Families, Health and Human Services committee.

By July 27, the Legislative Services Division had received 20 written objections to the health department's rules on flavored vaping products. Nineteen of the letters appears to be a form letter, while Bedey's was different but objected to the same proposed rules.

The letters cite the objection from the Economic Affairs interim committee and says the health department is overstepping its authority.

Because 20 lawmakers objected to the rule and asked for the Legislature to be polled, the interim health and human services committee must conduct the poll.

A poll does not delay the rule-making process, however. Polls are used to determine if the rule is consistent with legislative intent and would be relevant if there is litigation over the validity of the rule.

The poll will be held by mail and sent to legislators by Aug. 17. Return envelops must be postmarked by Sept. 8 to be counted.

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Head of the Montana State News Bureau

State Bureau reporter for Lee Newspapers of Montana.

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