Washington’s state Board of Health will decide if it will ban flavored vaping products Wednesday.
The action follows concern over the mysterious lung illness that has sickened hundreds of people and killed more than a dozen across the country.
Gov. Jay Inslee issued an executive order Sept. 27 asking the Department of Health to issue the emergency rule at it’s next meeting on Thursday.
The ban would apply to products containing nicotine as well as the cannabis extract THC. Inslee said the flavored products especially appeal to youth.
“Flavors exist for one reason and one reason only – and that is to make them more appealing to young children,” Inslee said.
“The FDA does not know and review the contents of what’s in the liquids. Anything can be included in the mix. It’s the wild west and that’s one reason we’re having a health crisis,” he said.
The ban first needs to be approved by the state health board on Wednesday and is expected to take effect the next day.
The board is going to review the governor’s order and consider language for a ban.
Inslee’s executive action also called for more warnings on ingredients in vaping products.
A number of vaping advocates have said that vaping has helped people quit smoking and that’s a reason to not totally end the practice.
“They’re not even giving us a chance to sell out of what we have,” said Margo Ross, who owns Cloud 509 in Moses Lake.
She and other vape shop owners across Washington state say a ban will force them to close. The executive action on Sept. 27 brought her to tears.
“Everybody looks at the side of the children. And I’m a mother. I understand that side,” she said. “I only sell to people who are over 18. I don’t do this to make money, I don’t do because I am hooking children. I do this because I help people,” Ross said.
But she said adults almost exclusively vape flavors too. And the ban means she will have to close her store in Moses Lake.
“I will have to put my LLC in bankruptcy. I will not be able to afford the bills I have,” Ross said.
The owner of Ausum Vapor in Ballard (also called O Vapor) has six shops across the Puget Sound. He said 99 percent of his e-juice sales are flavors, and the ban means he will start closing his stores on Monday – and will be forced to lay off his 25 employees.
The order for the ban comes after a new tax that charges $.09 cents per milliliter of product – something Ross said already forced her to close her other store.
The governor on Sept. 27 was joined by John Wiesman, secretary of the Washington State Department of Health, Rick Garza, director of the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board, legislators and other state and local leaders.
Hundreds of Americans have been reported to have a vaping-related breathing illness, and the death toll has risen to 13, health officials said Thursday.
As of Oct. 1, 1,080 lung injury cases associated with using e-cigarette, or vaping, products have been reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from 48 states and 1 U.S. territory. Eighteen deaths have been confirmed in 15 states. All patients have reported a history of using e-cigarette, or vaping, products, according to the CDC.
Over the summer, health officials in a few states began noticing reports of people developing severe breathing illnesses, with the lungs apparently reacting to a caustic substance. The only common factor in the illnesses was that the patients had all recently vaped.
As a national investigation started and broadened, reports have increased dramatically.
The agency’s count includes only illnesses that have met certain criteria. Other illnesses are also being investigated.
Most patients have said they vaped products containing THC, the ingredient that produces a high in marijuana. The investigation has been increasingly focused on products containing THC, with some attention on ingredients added to marijuana oil.
But some patients have said they vaped only nicotine. Currently, health officials are advising people not to use any vaping product until the cause is better understood.
The Associated Press and KIRO 7 reporter Deedee Sun contributed to this report