Gov. Jay Inslee’s call to ban flavored e-cigarette products has local vape store owners in an uproar, with some saying the products they sell aren’t the cause of recently-reported illness and deaths.
Inslee made an executive order Sept. 27 that calls for an emergency ban on flavored vapor products. The order also directs the state department of health and the Liquor and Cannabis Control Board to draft legislation for a more permanent ban, as well as other regulations.
Inslee’s order comes after recent reports of lung damage and deaths nationwide in connection with e-cigarette use. There have been seven cases of severe lung illness connected to vaping or e-cigarette devices in Washington, according to a press release from Inslee’s office. Meanwhile, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has said there have been 12 deaths nationwide.
Those in the e-cigarette industry were unsurprisingly against the call for a ban, which is expected to be voted on by the state board of health Oct. 9 in Seattle.
Jason Michael, manager of Vape-N-Flavr at Dollar’s Corner, called the executive order “nonsense.” He said in the eight years he has used e-cigarettes he hasn’t found any health complications from the activity.
“I’m a firm believer of vape because it really changed my life. I was able to save people’s lives,” Michael said, adding he is convinced that e-cigarettes are safer than smoking traditional tobacco products.
Channing Plourd, owner of Cloud House Vaporz in Woodland, estimated 90 to 95 percent of customers buying vapor products choose flavored over non-flavored. When he spoke to The Reflector Oct. 4, Plourd said there were few flavored products on the shelves following clearance sales.
Both Plourd and Michael said the lung damage was not caused by nicotine-containing products such as what is sold at their stores, but rather ones containing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive chemical in cannabis.
“I think that they need to look it over a little more of what’s really going on and find out the cause of it, not taking away flavors,” Plourd said, disputing the notion that the flavors themselves contributed any to the lung damage being reported.
Those statements were backed up by recent findings from the Food and Drug Administration, which warned against using THC-containing vapor products as well as any vaping products obtained on the street, unlike those sold at vape shops.
Shaun D’Sylva, owner of Fatboy Vapors in Battle Ground, was present at Inslee’s Sept. 27 press conference where he said he attempted to ask the governor pointed questions regarding the rationale for the order. He also pointed to THC vapes as the root of health problems.
“We’ve been in business for seven years. This industry’s been around for 10 or 11. We’ve never had anything like this,” D’Sylva said about recent health effect reports. “If this was a problem with e-liquid and even legal THC, we would have seen this years ago.”
Regarding the order’s addressing of youth use of e-cigarettes, D’Sylva was in agreement with the governor that teens should not be vaping. Part of the rationale behind Inslee’s order was that flavored e-cigarette products were more appealing to youths.
D’Sylva said it wasn’t so much having flavored products sold, but it was more an issue with access. Though stores that exclusively sold vape products were age-restricted, he said businesses such as gas stations and convenience stores that happen to sell vapor products had fewer barriers to youth access comparatively.
D’Sylva was open to regulations similar to what is found in the United Kingdom, which among other stipulations limits the concentration of nicotine in liquids. He mentioned some other suggestions, such as restricting flavored vapor products to age-restricted stores.
Like Michael, D’Sylva, who owns stores in Washington, Oregon and Alaska, pointed to the harm reduction they say vaping has when compared to traditional tobacco.
“Nobody is actually asking the adults that stopped smoking with vaping and using flavored vapes, what happens to them? Do they go back to smoking?” D’Sylvia said.
D’Sylva said 60 percent of his revenue was flavored e-liquid. If the ban goes through, he will be able to shift his flavored products to the Alaskan market, an option many in the industry don’t have.
“This flavor ban … it’s catastrophic to the industry,” D’Sylva remarked.