By Associated Press - Friday, December 20, 2019

HELENA, Mont. (AP) - A Montana vape store chain has announced plans to offer customers do-it-yourself vaping kits to combat the state’s new temporary ban on the sale of flavored vaping products.

Montana Public Radio reported Thursday that Freedom Vapes stores in the cities of Bozeman and Hamilton and the town of Belgrade are offering the workaround to help maintain business.

The kits allow customers to purchase vaping components separately so they can make their own products, officials said.

The option was announced by Freedom Vapes owners Ron and Deanna Marshall a day after the start of a four-month statewide ban on all flavored vaping products.

Freedom Vapes was one of the businesses that unsuccessfully sued Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock and his administration to stop the ban.

The Marshalls have not returned calls for comment since the ban was put in place on Wednesday, but a statement on their shops’ Facebook page Thursday said they plan to offer the kits for the duration of the 120-day ban.

“We are trying our best to keep your needs met while we work through this blatant witchhunt (sic) against our business, and products that have helped all of you break the deadly habit of tobacco use,” the statement said.

Their Facebook announcement also warns customers that buying cheap ingredients off the shelf could lead to serious lung damage or death, they said.

Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services spokesman Jon Ebelt said Friday it’s not yet clear whether the kits are in compliance with the ban.

“If retailers are offering flavor components intended for use in e-cigarettes, including in the do-it-yourself kits, it would fall under the temporary restriction,” Ebelt said in an email. “The flavor may be subject to enforcement.”

Do-it-yourself products may lack quality controls and health officials recommend consumers refrain from using any e-cigarettes at this time, he added.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continues its investigation into lung illnesses that have sickened over 2,500 and killed 54 people in 27 states, including one in Montana.

People are urged to avoid all THC vape products and recommend not using any e-cigarette or vaping products, health officials said.

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