‘You are lying’: Store owners spar with legislators after Gov. Inslee calls for ban on flavored vaping products

SEATTLE -- Gov. Jay Inslee is directing the state Board of Health to implement an emergency ban on flavored vaping products in response to a nationwide outbreak of vaping-related severe lung illnesses that has sickened seven people in Washington state and killed 13 people across the country.

The emergency ban won't take effect until after the Board of Health votes on Oct. 9. It will last 120 days but can be renewed if the board sees fit.

The ban will include all flavored vaping products - including those that contain THC and nicotine - and it will also prohibit selling products that are found to be associated with the severe lung illness outbreak in the future.

Inslee called the vaping industry the ‘Wild Wild West’ saying it was one of the reasons why it’s caused all the vaping related illnesses.

“We know there is an action causing this problem and that is the predatory marketing,” Inslee said.

Flanked by lawmakers and health experts, Inslee signed the executive order calling on the ban.

“Their interest is making money our interest is protecting the health of our children,” Inslee said.

“Make no mistake they`ve chosen to use flavoring to addict a whole new generation to nicotine,” Rep. Gerry Pollett said.

The announcement angered vape store owners who showed up to Inslee’s press conference on Friday. People in the vaping industry say it is irresponsible of state leaders to make a widespread ban without first identifying the ingredient causing all the illnesses.

During Inslee’s time at the podium an E-cigarette manufacturer who also owns 5 vaping stores across Washington verbally sparred with Inslee. The passionate exchange continued after the press conference when Pollett interrupted Shaun D’Sylva’s interview with the media.

D’Sylva says the state is demonizing an industry where most are following the rules and helping adults quit cigarettes.

Other vape store owners quietly looking on say the potential ban will kill their livelihood.

“I have a family I have to take care of, I have an employee that`s a freind that I have to take care of,” Owner of Vape Hub Justin Edwards said.

Governor Inslee acknowledged the huge impact a ban  would have on thousands of businesses but he says public health comes first especially when it comes to protecting children.

State health experts say a generation of kids are hooked.

“Vaping in our 10th graders rose from 13% to 21% it’s even scarier for our 12th graders,” Secretary of Health John Wiesman said.

The Director of Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board says there is a lot of misinformation out there.

“With a single cause not identified we know illnesses have arisen from vape products contain THC only and nicotine only,” Garza said.

Garza says products are tested but only for certain elements like potency, moisture, pesticides and heavy metals.

State lawmakers also say they are working on drafting bills that will do a number of things including a permanent ban, stricter regulations and more education.

Many in the vaping industry say they strongly believe that the illnesses are being caused by dealers in the black market contaminating products with Vitamin E Acetate.

“We aren’t waiting for Big Tobacco to tell us what is in their products,” Inslee said. “We aren’t going to take health guidance from them, because we know that their goals are to make money and create new customers. That is what they are interested in. We are interested in ensuring that adults and young people have known and regulated ingredients in vaping products. Everyone deserves to know what is in the vaping liquid they are inhaling into their lungs.”

Inslee is also calling for warning signs in stores where vaping products are sold, among other measures.

The state's cannabis association released a statement in support of Inslee's announcement.

“The top priority of regulated cannabis license-holders is to uphold all the safeguards in place to protect public safety,” said Vicki Christophersen, executive director of the Washington CannaBusiness Association. “That is why we fully support the urgency with which Governor Inslee, Washington’s Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control are acting to identify any and all risks to consumer safety resulting from vaping-related illness. We concur with actions ordered that reflect the rigor necessary to find the problem, address it, and implement solutions that prioritize public health. The policies we support are also actionable by affected business owners and their employees, who may or may not unwittingly offer any product which has caused harm, but who are struggling nonetheless against the unknown threat.”

The Trump administration has announced plans to ban flavored vaping products nationally, and New York, Michigan and Rhode Island are among the states instituting at least temporary bans. Massachusetts has gone the farthest, issuing a four-month ban on all vaping products.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said 805 confirmed and probable cases of vaping-related breathing illness have been reported nationally, up 52% from the 530 reported a week ago. At this point, illnesses have occurred in almost every state. Confirmed deaths include two in California, two in Kansas, two in Oregon and one each in Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, and Missouri. The Mississippi death was announced by officials in that state Thursday.

Those who have fallen ill have been hospitalized after experiencing worsening symptoms, including shortness of breath, cough or chest pain. All cases have reported e-cigarette use or vaping.

Health officials are urging people to stop vaping - both nicotine and THC - until the cause of the outbreak has been identified.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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