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State emergency ban on flavored vapor products takes effect today

(from L to R) Liquor and Cannabis Board Director Rick Garza, Attorney General Bob Ferguson, Sen. Patty Kuderer, Washington State Dept. of Health Secretary John Wiesman, and Gov, Jay Inslee speak at a Seattle press conference about changes to how the state regulates the vaping industry in light of a reported health crisis (September 27, 2019). Photo: Office of the Governor

Effective today, October 10th, sale of flavored vapor products or any products used to create a flavored vapor product is banned in the state of Washington. This emergency ban is in place for 120 days.

Governor Jay Inslee signed an executive order September 27th requesting the State Board of Health use its emergency rulemaking authority to impose a ban on all flavored vapor products, including flavored THC vapor products, at the Board’s October 9th meeting.

The order also requested the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board immediately ban any ingredients or sources found to be a cause of acute lung illnesses associated with vaping.

The governor’s action coincided with a nationwide investigation by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) into what has been described as an outbreak of lung injury cases associated with using e-cigarette (aka vaping) products. As of October 1st, over 1,000 cases have been reported to CDC from 48 states and 1 US territory including 18 confirmed deaths in 15 states. The Washington State Department of Health reported 7 lung injury cases statewide as of September 25th (none in Whatcom County).

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“This is a critical part of our response to the youth vaping epidemic and the outbreak of vaping associated lung injury in Washington and throughout the country,” said Secretary of Health John Wiesman, who is also a member of the Board of Health, in a DOH press release. “While we don’t yet know the exact cause of the lung injury, we know these products are not safe and we must act quickly to protect young people.”

“We know from our health impact review of House Bill 1932 that flavors get adolescents and young adults to start vaping and smoking, and the health effects of added flavors in marijuana vapor products have not been well researched,” said Keith Grellner, chair of the State Board of Health, in the press release. “Eliminating flavors from these products is an important first step to better protecting the health of people in Washington, especially to prevent and discourage youth and young adults from starting or continuing to vape unknown, unspecified, untested and unverified chemicals.”

Earlier this year, state representatives completed what they said was a 5-year process to make Washington the 11th state to enact legislation that raises the smoking age to 21. Under the new law, anyone who sells or gives any cigar, cigarette, cigarette paper or wrapper, tobacco or a vapor product to anyone under the age of 21 will be guilty of a gross misdemeanor. This law will go into effect January 1, 2020.

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