TEWKSBURY, Mass. (WBZ NewsRadio) — David Mattuchio owns the Vapor Station in Tewksbury. He opened the store five years ago, and now he's about to lose it.
That's because on Tuesday, in light of a national epidemic of vaping-related lung illnesses, Gov. Charlie Baker instituted a four-month ban on the sale of vaping products in the state.
"I just feel that this is a terrible tragedy, that it is going to put so many people out of business and basically cause many people to be unemployed," Mattuchio told WBZ NewsRadio's Karyn Regal.
Gov. Baker put the ban in place in response to the outbreak, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says has affected over 500 people—and left seven dead. There have been 61 reported cases here in Massachusetts.
Massachusetts is the first state to institute a ban on vaping products, and Mattuchio said he was stunned by the decision.
"I thought that regulation was coming, I thought taxation was coming," he said. "I thought that it was actually a good thing. I did not see this emergency ban coming, nor have I ever seen anything like this in my life."
Many of Mattuchio's customers were angry.
"Frankly, I'm an alcoholic, and one of the things that has saved my life is vaping," said one customer. "Because of vaping, I have no urge to drink, it's been years since I've had a drink, and I don't smoke. I'm outraged that the governor would make such a knee-jerk, pandering decision."
John Hurst of the Mass Retailers Association said many convenience stores, not just vape shops, rely on vaping products for impulse buys and traffic. He says there must be a swift investigation into what products are causing the illnesses.
"Are they products that are from recognizable names? Are they tobacco products, and/or are they CBD products? Are they products that are coming from other countries? Being sold on the internet? These are all issues that need to be answered as soon as possible, and we want to work to find a resolution that will make sure that both consumers and small business owners are not hurt in the long run," Hurst said.
But for the time being, many customers walking in the door of Vapor Station were buying what they can, while they can—like Bruce, who purchased $300 worth of vapor products.
"This, you know, vaping, was what got me off of 35 years of smoking, and I haven't turned back," he said. "Now, I'm afraid that a lot of people that have used this to get away from smoking are probably just going to go back to smoking cigarettes again."
WBZ NewsRadio's Karyn Regal (@Karynregal) reports