Washington lawmakers considering permanent ban on flavored-vaping products

OLYMPIA, Wash. - A bill to permanently ban all flavored vaping products in Washington was up for debate at the state Capitol. Wednesday, state lawmakers heard public comment on both sides Senate Bill 6254.

Several representatives from the state and public gave testimony before the Senate Health and Long Term Care Committee. Health and safety of youth in Washington was the biggest argument.

“Last year, my school along with many others in the district made the decision to remove the doors to our bathrooms because of the vaping epidemic flooding our classrooms,” said one high school student from Vancouver, B.C. who gave testimony.

“At my school, the girl’s bathroom sign was scratched off. Instead of saying ‘girls bathroom’ it now says ‘girls JUUL room’,” said an eighth-grade student from Seattle.

Some state lawmakers who testified accused the vaping industry of targeting young people by naming products after desserts. Sponsors of the bill said vape products contributed to nicotine addiction among teens.

“There’s just no doubt about it from the research,” said one sponsor of the bill.

The 2018 Washington State Healthy Youth Survey shows e-cigarette and vape use is rising. Out of more than 230,000 students who were surveyed, 21 percent of them said they used an e-cigarette or vape. It’s an increased amount compared result in the 2016 study.

“By placing additional regulations around the vaping industry banning the use of flavors and harmful chemicals and limiting the nicotine concentration in these products this bill saves lives,” said another sponsor of the bill.

People in the industry said the flavored vaping products were never intended to appeal to young people, but rather help adult smokers reduce their addiction to nicotine and combustible products.

“90 to 95 percent of our adult customers use flavors to stop smoking and switch to vaping,” said Shaun D’Sylva, representing Washington State Smoke-Free Association.

D’Sylva was joined by manufacturers, distributors and vape store owners at the Senate committee hearing.

“We don’t get invited to discussions about our industry. And we like to say if it’s going to be about us, it needs to include us. We don’t get invited to the discussions because they treat us like we’re ‘big tobacco’” said D’Sylva

The industry representative said he believes the business could easily adhere to some things the bill calls for, like labeling and packaging requirements. D’Sylva said other items in the bill has the potential to wipe out vaping business across the state.

“Manufacturing issues, there are licensing issues. And even product requirements that I don’t think any manufacturer in the country would be able to comply with,” said D’Sylva.

Gov. Jay Inslee placed a temporary ban on all flavored vaping products in Washington in October 2019. D’Sylva said since then, some vape stores were reported to have lost as much as 85 percent in revenue. He explained the Washington State Smoke Free Association represents more than 160 store owners.

“We have people literally on the brink. We’ve lost over 650 jobs,” said D’Sylva.

Inslee’s temporary ban will expire on February 6.