OLYMPIA, Wash. — Lawmakers in Olympia are considering making a temporary ban on the sale of flavored vaping products a little more permanent.
The state’s Board of Health implemented a temporary ban last October following a number of vaping-related illnesses and deaths. That ban is in effect until Feb. 7, 2020.
However, a bill introduced in Olympia on Monday would allow the sale of the flavored products in certain circumstances.
An amendment to state Senate Bill 6254 proposes allowing the sale of flavored vapor products in shops that only serve those who are over 21 years old.
Flavored vapor products would not be allowed to be sold in grocery stores or gas stations.
In addition to the age restrictions, Washington lawmakers also proposed implementing a 37% tax on flavored vapor products and direct the money from the tax to the Foundational Public Health Services Accounts. The size and potency of the liquids would also be limited.
The bill also calls for a change to the definition of flavored vapor products to exclude tobacco and menthol.
The current wording of the bill would only allow for the sale of e-juices considered flavorless or tobacco-flavored.
Lawmakers backing the flavor ban argue that without a full ban, minors would be more likely to start vaping or smoking.
"I don't think we'll see a version that allows literally 'bubble gum' and 'cherry pop' to be sold again," said Rep. Gerry Pollet (D-Seattle). "We're working hard to rush through legislation as quickly as we can."
The vaping industry criticized the bans on flavored products as too broad, sweeping up legitimate products along with those blamed for lung damage.
"Kids are getting these products illegally. We need to challenge them on when and how they're getting them and establish some sort of reasonable penalty. At the same time, we want to make sure the appropriate stores that are taking the right measures are able to continue in business," said Shaun D'Sylva, a vape store owner Battle Ground, Clark County.
Despite tougher regulations, high school students and even younger kids are still able to get the flavored vapes of all types, according to a recent report by the New York Times.
When President Donald Trump's Administration prohibited fruit, dessert and mint flavors in refillable cartridges, there were a few exceptions created for adults and vape shop owners who thought the ban was unfair.
A footnote in that national policy allows all flavors to be sold in devices that cannot be refilled and are designed to be disposable.
Teenagers have caught on quickly to that loophole, according to an investigation from the New York Times.
Teens can also get the banned products online or from someone of legal age who could be supplying them.
The bill still sits in the Senate. It was discussed during an executive session in the Senate Committee on Health & Long Term Care on Monday.
The temporary ban will be lifted at the end of the week, and lawmakers are still discussing the next steps.