At a highly scented and very passionate meeting in SeaTac on Wednesday, the state Board of Health voted unanimously to approve Gov. Inlsee's proposed ban on all flavored vape products. The emergency ban on flavored e-cigarettes and flavored pot vapes goes into effect immediately and will be reviewed in 120 days. The state legislature is already moving to make the ban permanent.
The pro-vape crowd came out in en masse to protest the proposed ban, which they say will destroy their e-cigarette businesses. Last month, Inslee asked the Board of Health to ban flavored vapes in response to a rash of vaping-related illnesses both in Washington and across the U.S. Members of the local vape community (who, contrary to popular belief, do not wear fedoras but do like a good flat-brimmed cap) brought signs reading, "Flavored vapor helped me quit smoking" and spent breaks vaping outside.
The public comment session in the morning got heated, as tends to happen when that state is about to ban something people like. The vast majority of the 234 speakers were against the ban, and many spoke about how vaping helped them quit smoking. The vote started with a plea to the crowd to behave themselves and a warning that if things "devolved," the board would kick their vaping ass out.
Kathy Lofy, the Chief Science Officer for Washington State, as well as several staffers and members of the Board of Health, spoke about the potential harms of vaping, which may include lung illness, death, and looking like a Juggalo trying to quit smoking. The guy sitting behind me (hoodie, beard, gauged ears) periodically muttered "Yeah, right" and "Same old shit" (and, at one point, "Cocksuckers") as the public health experts spoke. There was a lot of very deep sighing in the audience. I'm pretty sure someone in the next row was vaping grape or maybe mango under his hoodie.
A rep from the Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB) spoke as well, and said that the LCB is now requiring that cannabis retailers across the state to post warning signs in their businesses. The LCB is also planning on requiring all vape producers to disclose any kind of compounds, chemicals, additives, or cutting agents used in their products. If the CDC figures out the cause of this mysterious vaping illness, any products containing the problematic substances can be recalled, according to the LCB.
The public health people belabored the shit out the teen vaping problem (just like Inslee has), which is an entirely different problem than the vaping-related lung illness. The cause of the mysterious lung illness is unknown but could be due to any number of harmful metals, pesticides, or other compounds like vitamin E acetate which have been found in black market vapes.
And the State knows flavors probably aren't causing the illness. "By eliminating flavors we are not saying that's what's causing this illness," said Secretary of Health John Wiesman before the vote. "We are losing another generation and we have got to stop this," he said, to scattered (and certainly sarcastic) laughter from the crowd. "It's really about the youth."
This did not go over well. A man in a suit jacket, with an impressive top knot and beard, stood up, and started yelling, "Did you even listen to these people? Shame!" The crowd joined in, and the man said that vape shops will be shut down within a month, if not a week. The board told him to shut up.
A man in the back yelled, "No worries, I'll make flavors immediately," and the crowd—angry and in need of vape—started to disperse.