BALTIMORE — Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot announced Wednesday that he's creating a task force to examine the public health and safety implications of electronic smoking devices.
He cited a growing number of reports about serious illnesses, lung disease and deaths related to vaping. The Maryland Department of Health said it is investigating 38 deaths associated to vaping-associated lung injury.
The comptroller said he hopes the task force, which will be called "E-Facts," can come up with regulations to ensure businesses can continue selling the e-cigarette products without worrying about their clients becoming sick or dying.
"We've got kind of a Wild West situation with vaping right now, both in Maryland and around the country," Franchot said.
Franchot is attempting to put his political foot down when it comes to ESDs after more than 30 deaths nationwide have been associated with vaping.
"The situation right now is completely unacceptable," Franchot said.
Franchot said E-Facts will consist of four Maryland lawmakers, as well as representatives for health groups, businesses, industry experts and the education community.
Franchot said the main goal is to get a better understanding of ESDs and determine whether new laws need to be passed to protect consumers.
"Once the facts are on the table, the task force can both make recommendations and I will also focus the Legislature next session and what they need to do," Franchot said.
Matt Milby, the vice president of Maryland Vapor Alliance, the lobbying arm for the industry in Annapolis, told 11 News in a statement: "The Maryland Vapor Alliance is proud of the work our vapor shop retailers do to help our adult citizens transition from combustible cigarettes -- that kill more than 480,000 Americans annually -- to regulated vapor products. We look forward to having an open dialogue with the comptroller and other stakeholders about the policies in this area. In fact, we support banning vapor e-liquid flavor sales except in age-restricted establishments, as well as prohibiting vapor marketing to youth, increasing penalties for illegal distribution of vapor products, and establishing taxes on vapor products for enforcement and youth prevention initiatives."
Franchot said he hopes to work with all involved to come up with a reasonable plan for the industry.
"We're going to give the kind of oversight and review that should have been done," Franchot said.
The task force members will be chosen within the next week or two. The group will meet later this fall and will continue to meet until early next year.