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Walz says state laws block him from barring vaping product sales in Minnesota

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Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz speaks during an interview in February 2019. Walz said he lacks executive authority to crack down on sales of vaping products as happened this week in Massachusetts.
Tim Pugmire | MPR News

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz said he lacks executive authority to crack down on sales of vaping products as happened this week in Massachusetts.

Massachusetts’ Republican Gov. Charlie Baker declared a public health emergency and barred sales of vaping devices and chemicals for four months in the state on Tuesday — apparently the first action of its kind in the nation.

Baker said it will give public health officials more time to determine the link between vaping and serious lung ailments. The ban, though temporary, is broader than moves in at least three states, Michigan, Rhode Island and New York, to ban only vape flavors.

Governors in other states say they might do the same. In Minnesota, Walz said on Wednesday he explored taking action but was told laws in the state prevent it.

"I don't have that power and I asked my folks several weeks ago, especially on the flavored and on what we saw in Massachusetts,” said Walz. “It turned out in 2005, the state Legislature revoked the governor's authority on health crisis."

Walz said not having the authority to act quickly on health emergencies is a problem and that he is discussing the issue with lawmakers.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says more than 500 confirmed and probable cases of lung illnesses and nine deaths nationwide have been attributed to vaping.

The CDC has not identified a common product or ingredient responsible for the illnesses.