Public sounds off on Inslee’s plan to make ban on flavored vaping products permanent

VIDEO: Some vape shop owners say ban on flavors has broken their business

OLYMPIA, Wash. — State lawmakers heard from the public Wednesday on a bill that would permanently ban flavored vaping products in Washington state.

Governor Jay Inslee issued a temporary ban last fall after an outbreak of lung-related vaping illnesses. The 120-day ban expires Feb. 6.

Senate Bill 6254 would ban dessert, fruit and any flavors other than tobacco-flavored vaping products, as well as any products containing vitamin E acetate.

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Some lawmakers say the flavors appeal to teenagers and young people and have contributed to nicotine addiction.

According to the state’s Healthy Youth Survey, the number of students who reported using e-cigarettes/vaping products increased significantly between 2016 and 2018. Eighth-graders were up from 6 to 10 percent; 10th graders went from 13 to 21 percent; and the number of high school seniors who reported vaping rose from 20 to 30 percent, according to the survey.

Local vape shop owners argue vaping products help cigarette smokers quit.

JD Lewis, owner of VaporFlavors, says the ‘I quit smoking’ signs in his shop are a personal connection to his customers and a professional accomplishment.

“It just shows our industry is passionate about flavors and that’s what got them to quit (smoking cigarettes)," said Lewis.

He says a permanent ban on flavors will mean fewer testimonials, many more smokers, and even more shops shutting down.

“It’s guaranteed -- it’s a kill all bill,” said Lewis.

The bill would also limit nicotine levels in vapes that don’t contain cannabis and allow the Washington Liquor and Cannabis Board to seize illegal vaping products.

It also requires manufacturers and distributors to submit a list of product ingredients to the state Department of Health.

But VaporFlavors employee Jason Noll says people are simply going elsewhere to find their vaping fluid.

“They’re either going online or I do know a lot of people who take regular trips down to Oregon,” said Noll.

Lewis plans to ask lawmakers Wednesday to reconsider the ban and work with shops to come up with a compromise on fluid and flavors.

He believes 160 shops have closed, and he doesn’t want to be next.