Washington lawmakers want a crackdown on vaping

As reports of vaping-related illness continue to emerge across Washington state, lawmakers are asking state officials to ban vape flavors for e-cigarettes that contain allegedly harmful ingredients. But state officials are still weighing their options.

A flurry of reported cases of vaping-related illness both nationwide and across Washington state have lawmakers and health officials on high alert. As of Monday, a total of six cases of vaping-related illness across the state — including two in Spokane County — have been confirmed, according to the Department of Health. Last week, Washington State Health Officer Kathy Lofty called the issue a "statewide outbreak."

In a letter authored last week, state Rep. Gerry Pollet (D-Seattle) and Sen. Patty Kuderer (D-Bellevue), called on the state Department of Health and the Liquor and Cannabis Board to ban vapor products containing the chemicals vitamin E acetate and diacetyl statewide, the Seattle Times first reported.

The lawmakers cited a recent study that found that a large number of e-cigarette vape flavors tested by researchers contained diacetyl, which has been associated with respiratory disease. They also argued that the Department of Health and the Liquor and Cannabis Board can legally ban products containing those chemicals under a 2016 law that allows both agencies to pull harmful vapor products from the market or suspend the licenses of retailers who sell them.

"At least until proven otherwise, vapor products containing these two chemicals should be removed from the market in our state," the letter reads.

While the Department of Health is actively monitoring and investigating the situation, the agency isn't committing to any ban on specific vape flavor products at this point, citing a lack of sufficient evidence linking one product or chemical with all the cases.

But state health officials aren't completely writing off a ban just yet. Kristen Maki, a spokeswoman for the Department of Health, says that "all policy options are currently on the table" and that Gov. Jay Inslee has asked the Department of Health to provide him with options for potential responses, including statutory changes and executive order. ♦

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About The Author

Josh Kelety

As a staff writer, Josh covers criminal justice issues and Spokane County government. Previously, he worked as a reporter for Seattle Weekly. Josh grew up in Port Townsend and graduated from the University of Washington. Message him through Signal @ (360) 301-3490.