Washington state orders emergency ban on flavored vape products

Posted at 5:33 PM, Sep 27, 2019

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has called for the state to impose an emergency ban on all flavored vaping products, including those that contain nicotine and THC.

On Friday, Inslee announced the executive order that will direct the Washington State Department of Health to take several actions.

The order "will ask the state board of health to adopt emergency rules to ban all flavored vapor products, including flavored THC products. I expect the board to take up this request and vote on it at their next meeting on October 9th," Inslee said during a press conference on Friday.

"My executive order also directs the department and the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board to do the following: First, immediately ban any ingredients or sources that are found to be the cause of this acute lung illness," he said. The governor's announcement comes in response to a nationwide outbreak of lung injuries associated with e-cigarette use or vaping.

There are at least 805 lung injury cases reported in 46 states and the US Virgin Islands, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Thirteen deaths have been confirmed in 10 states: two in California, two in Kansas, two in Oregon and one each in Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Florida, Georgia and Mississippi.

The specific chemical exposure causing lung injuries associated with e-cigarette use currently remains unknown, according to the CDC.

There are signs that point to a majority of patients vaping THC products.

'This executive order is a floor, not a ceiling'

In 2012, Washington state legalized marijuana for recreational use and the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board's enforcement and education division is responsible for enforcing state liquor, cannabis and tobacco laws and regulations.

In his announcement, Inslee added that the next steps include for the health department and board to work together on drafting governor-request legislation for 2020 that would permanently ban all flavored vape products, require disclosure of all ingredients in products, increase the regulatory oversight of these products, limit bulk sales and expand an educational campaign.

"I wanted to do more by this executive order. I wanted to go further than this, but I followed our existing statutory authority," Inslee said. "We aren't done in this discussion. ... What I'm doing with this executive order is a floor, not a ceiling."

Matthew Myers, president of the advocacy group Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, applauded Inslee and supported the call for a ban on the sale of flavored e-cigarettes in Washington state.

"The time is now to end the youth e-cigarette epidemic, and Gov. Inslee's call for prohibiting flavored e-cigarettes is exactly what we need," Myers said in a written statement.

"The evidence is clear that flavored e-cigarettes have fueled this epidemic -- 97% of youth e-cigarette users report using a flavored product in the past month and 70% cite flavors as the reason for their use. The recent spate of serious lung illnesses associated with e-cigarette use has added to the urgency of acting now to protect our kids and, indeed, the health of all Americans," he said in the statement. "We look forward to working with Gov. Inslee and state lawmakers to pass this legislation and end the youth e-cigarette epidemic."

Other states have also taken action to prohibit the sale of certain vaping projects. This week, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker called for a four-month temporary statewide ban on the sale of both flavored and non-flavored e-cigarettes and vaping products.

Earlier this month, Michigan banned the sale of flavored vaping products and New York banned the sale of most flavored e-cigarettes. In June, San Francisco became the first US city to effectively ban all e-cigarette sales.

'We are in the midst of a complex investigation'

Two reports published Friday shed more light on the mysterious, growing outbreak of lung injuries linked to vaping, highlighting the prevalence of THC-containing products in particular.

The reports, released by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, offer a national picture of who's been impacted, as well as an in-depth look at the outbreak Illinois and Wisconsin -- the first two states to report cases.

Nationally, nearly 7 in 10 patients have been men, and the median age is 23 years. Of more than 500 patients who offered information on what substances they used, nearly 77% reported THC-containing products, while nearly 57% reported nicotine-containing products.

Earlier this month, New York health officials announced that a state investigation into the link between vaping and severe lung illnesses has yielded the discovery of extremely high levels of the chemical vitamin E acetate in nearly all cannabis-containing vaping products that were analyzed.

At least one vape product containing this chemical has been linked to each person who fell ill and submitted a product for testing in the state.

Nationally, "we are in the midst of a complex investigation that spans nearly all states [and] involves serious, life-threatening disease in young people who report use of a wide variety of substances and products," Dr. Anne Schuchat, CDC's principal deputy director, told reporters on Friday.

The CDC, US Food and Drug Administration, state and local health departments, and other clinical and public health partners are continuing to investigate the multi-state outbreak of lung injury associated with using e-cigarette products.