Governor Jay Inslee declared an emergency ban against flavors for nicotine and cannabis vaping products on Friday.
“It should not be anyone’s business model in the state of Washington to addict children,” Inslee said during press conference in Seattle.
The order also requires a full disclosure of all ingredients. The order cannot take effect before a vote by the Washington Board of Health on Oct. 9. The board is comprised of 10 members. Nine are appointed by Inslee, including Spokane County Health Officer Bob Lutz. Secretary of Health John Wiesman, the 10th member, was present at the conference.
Wiseman said there have been seven cases of vaping-related lung illness in Washington and that the Department of Health will continue analyzing emergency room data. He advises the public to quit vaping and, if they do not, to monitor themselves, taking note of coughs, shortness of breath or chest pains.
If approved, the order will last for 120 days, with the option of renewal. Inslee said he expects lawmakers to draft legislation banning the flavors, reflected in an action item in the order.
Attorney General Bob Ferguson joined Inslee.
“This is truly an epidemic. That is not too strong a word to use,” Ferguson said.
Inslee said the ban is an early step in a battle against young people becoming addicted to nicotine through vaping products.
“These flavors exist for one reason and one reason only, and that is to make them appeal to young children,” Inslee said.
The Juul brand is mentioned in Inslee’s order, and Rep. Marcus Riccelli, D-Spokane, said he has called out that brand.
“Companies like Juul should be ashamed of what they’ve done,” Riccelli said. “They’re basically bringing back the Joe Camel years.”
The order specifies developing a governor-requested legislative proposal, and Riccelli said when this crosses his desk he will take it very seriously.
“I think the governor took a very prudent step in saying we have this public health risk,” Riccelli said.
Brian Smith, Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board communications director, said there are more than 4,000 licenses to sell vaping products in Washington and that compliance with regulations is above 90%.
Liquor and Cannabis Board Director Rick Garza said there has been a lot of misinformation surrounding vaping-related illnesses. He said the illnesses were not limited to cannabis or nicotine products, nor were the illnesses limited to off-the-street products or the practice of “cutting” the juice with other substances, a practice in which people mix different substances in their vaping devices.
The disclosure of ingredients is in part an effort to help identify which chemical or chemicals are specifically causing the outbreak of acute illness. The disclosure effort is being pursued in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration.
The order also gives the power to ban immediately any chemical found to be connected to the illnesses. Rep. Timm Ormsby said he initially thought that vaping products could be a helpful smoking cessation device, but has been won over by the arguments against it due to the skyrocketing use among teens and young adults. He said the unknown chemical components were also troubling.
AJ Sanders, with the health district’s Tobacco, Marijuana and Vaping Device Prevention program, said a troubling trend in vaping is that, unlike with cigarettes, the incidence of beginning usage doesn’t go down as significantly after age 22.
“The biggest thing is for people to quit using until we know what’s causing the severe lung disease,” Sanders said.
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