Citing a growing number of reports about serious illnesses, lung disease and deaths that are attributable to vaping, Comptroller Peter Franchot (D) announced Wednesday that he is creating a task force to examine the public health and safety implications of electronic smoking devices.

“As Maryland’s chief tobacco regulator, my job is to safeguard public health, protect consumers and keep dangerous products out of the hands of children,” Franchot said in a press release. “With each passing day, we are learning more about the severe health risks and the 33 confirmed deaths across the United States from vaping. Despite these reports, there is still so much that we do not know about the nature and characteristics of these products. It is imperative that those of us in government work closely with public health officials, advocates and retailers to develop a deeper understanding of these products and establish appropriate laws that govern how they are manufactured, distributed and sold.”

The comptroller will ask the speaker of the Maryland House of Delegates and the president of the Maryland Senate to appoint two members from their respective chambers to serve on the task force. Other members will represent local governments, public health institutions, public health and safety experts, Maryland businesses, industry representatives and the education community, according to the release.

This new task force — titled “e-facts” — will convene later this fall and will continue into early 2020. The task force directives will be:

• To achieve a better understanding of the nature and characteristics of ESDs, including the distinctions between various products within the marketplace.

• To gain a comprehensive picture of the public health and safety of ESDs and commercial effects of product sales in Maryland.

• To recommend new and stronger laws to ensure that consumers — particularly young people — are protected.

“We can only begin to affect change by gathering the necessary data and information needed to save lives,” Franchot said in the release.