Associated Press and Herald staff
SEATTLE — Health officials in Washington state on Wednesday formally adopted a temporary ban on the sale of flavored vaping products amid concern over a lung illness that has sickened hundreds of people.
The vote by the state Board of Health came two weeks after Gov. Jay Inslee issued an executive order asking for the emergency rule to be issued. The board’s vote was unanimous, with one member abstaining, and the rule is expected to take effect this week.
Hundreds of vaping supporters spoke against the order at a public meeting in Seattle, saying it will drive people to black market products or back to smoking tobacco.
The ban, initially slated to last four months but which could be renewed, will apply to flavored products containing nicotine as well as the flavored products with the cannabis extract THC.
The rule also requires sellers of vapor products to post warning signs about the risk of vaping-related lung illnesses. It would not apply at tribal shops, but the governor’s office said the administration is reaching out to tribal governments for their cooperation.
“We support better regulation of vaping products, particularly with respect to requiring ingredient listings and honest communication to patrons about the risks of vaping-related lung illness,” said Dr. Chris Spitters, interim health officer for the Snohomish Health District.
“We are concerned about the marketing strategies being used … that appear to be specifically recruiting youth and young adults,” Spitters added. “It is our hope that this emergency rule will help move toward reversing the troubling increase in youth usage that we have been seeing here in Snohomish County.”
The chairman of the state health board, Keith Grellner, noted that the board has the authority to rescind the rule and he said that if different information emerges on the illness’s tie to flavored products, the board could reconvene and reconsider the action.
The governor’s office is seeking legislative proposals that would permanently ban all flavored vaping products, seek increased transparency to customers on ingredients and increase regular oversight of vapor products. The 60-day legislative session begins Jan. 13.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is investigating reports of more than 1,000 illnesses nationwide linked to vaping, including at least 18 deaths in 15 states.
President Donald Trump has said he plans to ban flavored vaping products nationally. The vaping industry has been heavily criticized for marketing flavors such as vanilla and mango that could appeal to young people.
New York, Michigan and Rhode Island are among the states that have announced at least temporary bans.
Officials in Oregon and California have urged consumers to stop using the products. Massachusetts has gone the furthest, issuing a four-month ban on all vaping products — flavored or not.