State's e-cig rules could become toughest in U.S.

Two men smoke e-cigarette's outside the Capitol in Olympia.
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OLYMPIA, Wash. -- A new bill would make Washington's laws regulating e-cigarettes some of the toughest in the nation.

Bill sponsor Rep. Gerry Pollet, D-Seattle, calls the proposal a "game changer."

It would require special licenses for all retailers, require manufacturers to list all ingredients in e-juice, ban non-tobacco flavored vaping products, and tax e-cigarettes and the supplies at the same rate as tobacco products.

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Consumers would pay a 95 percent tax on the items, compared to paying the standard sales tax now.

"Everytime we raised the price of cigarettes we reduced youth smoking," said Pollet, who teaches public health at the University of Washington.

Pollet said the tobacco industry views vaping as a way to create a new generation of nicotine addicts who think it's a safe, healthy alternative to smoking.

"It's not safe, it's highly addictive and you don't know what else is in it," Pollet said.

Hundreds of vapers and e-cigarette store owners lined up to testify against the bill during a public hearing on the bill Monday afternoon in Olympia.

"For so many adults this has been a life-changing intervention," said Emily Murphy, a former cigarette smoker who credits e-cigarettes for helping her kick the habit.

Vapers told lawmakers the proposal would make e-cigarettes more expensive, harder to find and would eliminate flavors popular with adult customers.

"There is one (flavor) that actually has bubble gum in it. You know what's funny? It's the number one seller in the store," said Andy Kibler, owner of Olympia Vapor in Tumwater.

Kibler said he will not sell vaping products to anyone under 18.

He is willing to pay for a special license and even said he would be willing to pay higher taxes.

But Kibler said eliminating flavors and raising taxes to 95 percent could cause his business to shut down and send his customers back to cigarettes.

"It really seems like about an atom bomb approach to something that could be done with a little more finesse," said Kibler.