Gov. Jay Inslee directed state officials Friday to impose an emergency ban on flavored vaping products, one of several measures he announced in response to the mysterious, sometimes fatal lung illness linked to e-cigarettes that have rippled across the nation.
In an executive order, Inslee —noting the flavors’ particular appeal to children — directed the state Board of Health to use its emergency authority to ban all flavored vaping products, including those containing THC, when it next meets on Oct. 9. The ban would take place only after board action.
“These kids get hooked,” Inslee said at an appearance in Seattle morning. The governor and other state and King County officials took turns at the microphone lambasting an unregulated industry that draws in children as customers with flavors such as bubblegum and cinnamon.
“Look, when you addict a 12-year-old kid to nicotine, you’re just wrong,” Inslee said.
Washington joins at least two other states — Michigan and New York — to ban flavored vape products in response to the illnesses.
In his order, Inslee also called on the state Department of Health and the Washington Liquor and Cannabis Board to ban the sale of any specific vaping products, if and when they are identified as the cause of the lung injuries.
The governor also directed those two agencies to develop warning signs to post in e-cigarette retail stores and require vaping manufacturers to begin disclosing ingredients involved in the making and processing of their products.
“Everyone deserves to know what’s in these vaping liquids,” Inslee said.
Among other things, Inslee directed the two agencies to develop proposals for the upcoming legislative session to better regulate vaping, including a permanent ban on flavors.
Friday’s executive order comes as health officials have struggled to pinpoint the exact cause of the illnesses, which have been linked to the use of e-cigarettes.
No link has yet been shown between a specific e-cigarette ingredient and the illnesses; all that is known is that the patients used vaping devices.
Given the lack of regulation and understanding of what is causing the illnesses, Inslee said, “If I had a loved one, I would just tell them you’re playing dice with your lungs.”
Inslee said he wished he could have come down harder on vaping — which has been “wrongfully seen as some safer alternative” to smoking — but was limited by statutory authority in Washington.
“I wanted to do more by this executive order,” Inslee said. Friday’s announcement, he added, should be considered the start of an ongoing process. “This is a floor not a ceiling.”
Some initial data has shown that most cases involved people who have used vaping products with THC, marijuana’s psychoactive ingredient, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In other cases, people have reported using both nicotine and THC products, and some have said they only used nicotine.
E-cigarettes — like those produced by the company Juul — heat a liquid that creates an aerosol often containing nicotine, according to the CDC. Vaping devices can also be used to inhale THC or other cannabis products.
The devices have long been hailed as a healthier alternative by tobacco smokers trying to quit, since the products contain fewer toxic chemicals than conventional cigarettes.
Authorized flavored cartridges are sold for the devices. But people can buy unauthorized products off the street — or make their own.
The illnesses have now sickened at least 805 people across the nation and killed at least 13.
No deaths have been reported in Washington. Both King and Spokane counties have reported two cases each of the illness, according to the state Department of Health. Mason, Pierce and Snohomish counties have each confirmed one case.
Some GOP state lawmakers have expressed concern about the illnesses, but also urged restraint by officials until the exact cause of the problem has been determined.
“It’s my hope that we can find the culprit, what the ingredient is, sooner rather than later, and get the industry back up on decent footing,” said Rep. Drew MacEwen, R-Union, ranking Republican on the House Commerce and Gaming Committee.
But several Democratic state lawmakers — who have long sought greater restrictions and oversight on vaping — renewed their call for a ban on flavors, as well as stronger disclosure requirements for ingredients.
Meanwhile, Attorney General Bob Ferguson has said he’s been in touch with his peers in other states who have sued e-cigarette companies they see as targeting minors.
Meanwhile this week, U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Washington, wrote the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission requesting information and suggesting those officials have failed to enforce a law passed by Congress in 2015 that requires liquid nicotine to be sold in child-resistant packaging.
“In the wake of a national health crisis involving vaping-related illnesses and deaths, the Commission’s failure to enforce a law to keep these substances from poisoning small children is deeply troubling,” Cantwell wrote in the letter.
This content was originally published here.