Washington state’s four-month ban on flavored vaping products is slated to end on February 7.
Federal law bans flavored vaping products associated with Juul and other more expensive devices that can be reloaded, but not so-called 'disposable' devices that are tossed once they’re used up.
"Whenever we’re finding nicotine product on people, it’s vape devices, we’re not finding cigarettes as much anymore,” said Lisa Davidson, the manager for Prevention and Intervention at Seattle Public Schools.
Concerns over vaping as an alternative to cigarettes have been around for years, because most vaping products also provide addictive nicotine.
The concern regarding young people, said Stacia Wasmundt, the Tobacco and Vapor Prevention Consultant with the Washington State Department of Health, is damage to the brains of young adults and kids that are still not fully developed.
The mix of state and federal regulations on flavored vaping products was set in motion last fall after a rash of deaths and severe lung damage was found largely among young people who vaped certain products containing an especially damaging chemical compound, often associated with gray market vaping liquids imported from China.
The vaping industry criticized the bans on flavored products as too broad, sweeping up legitimate product along with those blamed for lung damage.
Washington’s emergency ban was temporary, but there are new bills in the Legislature to extend the ban permanently. The state ban is broader than the federal action, though the one thing that is clear is both the state and federal age requirement is now set at 21.
Despite tougher regulations, high school students and even younger are still able to get the flavored vapes of all types, said Davidson.
"The pod-style vapes that were popular a few months ago are still popular now.” She does not see a movement to disposables, which fall into the federal loophole.
So how are teens getting flavored vaping products now?
“We’ve heard, at least, that kids are getting products online," said Wasmundt, with the state Department of Health. "But usually it’s from social sources. So before now, they could have had products before the ban that they still have from friends or family members."