Politics & Government

New state rules to govern vape shops and electronic cigarettes

VIDEO: New state vaping regulations

Marc Jarrett, vice president of Pink Lung Brigade, talks about the new state regulations for vaping.
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Marc Jarrett, vice president of Pink Lung Brigade, talks about the new state regulations for vaping.

Marc Jarrett smoked cigarettes for 15 years. Then, he discovered vaping and quit that same week.

Now a part-owner of Banzai Vapors in Lakewood, Jarrett said he supports Washington state’s new regulations for the vaping industry, which specify in part where people can and can’t use vaporizers and electronic cigarettes.

“It serves to legitimize what we do in this industry,” Jarrett said of the new regulations, adding: “No one should be vaping where it could potentially offend other people.”

Washington’s new rules — approved by the Legislature last week — will create a statewide licensing system for businesses that sell and distribute vapor products, which include not just e-cigarettes, but also liquid nicotine.

The regulations will ban people from using vapor products inside schools, day care centers, elevators and school buses, while requiring liquid nicotine bottles to disclose their nicotine content and come in child-resistant packaging.

“Everything we did was really designed around youth prevention,” said state Sen. Bruce Dammeier, R-Puyallup, who sponsored Senate Bill 6328.

Gov. Jay Inslee is expected to sign the measure into law within the next two weeks. Most parts of the bill, including the prohibitions on vaping inside schools and day cares, will go into effect 90 days later.

Everything we did was really designed around youth prevention.

State Sen. Bruce Dammeier, R-Puyallup, on Washington state’s new regulations for the vaping industry

E-cigarettes and vaporizers are battery-powered devices that heat and vaporize liquid nicotine to recreate the sensation of smoking a cigarette. They have become popular among cigarette smokers looking to kick the habit, becoming a $3 billion-a-year global industry.

Yet public health advocates have worried about the rising popularity of vaping among minors, and the consequences of young users getting addicted to nicotine. They also worry about other unknown health effects from the products.

“Anytime you breathe foreign chemicals into your lungs, which are a delicate organ, it’s definitely not healthy for you,” said Mary McHale, lobbyist for the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network. “With e-cigarettes, there are so many unknown chemicals that are in these products.”

Jason McGill, Inslee’s health policy adviser, said the goal of the legislation was to recognize the potential danger to young people, while acknowledging that vapor products could “perhaps be an alternative to the worst health product available, cigarettes.”

“Anything might be better than cigarettes,” McGill said.“But I think the jury is still out on the health effects of vaping, and we cannot normalize this with our youth.”

“I think the industry recognizes that.”

LAW AMONG NATION’S FURTHEST-REACHING

Karmen Hanson, a tobacco policy analyst for the National Conference of State Legislatures, called Washington’s law “one of the most comprehensive legislative efforts to date” to regulate vapor products and electronic cigaretttes.

With the new law, Washington will join six other states that have passed laws to require licensing of vapor product retailers and distributors.

But few states have gone as far as Washington to simultaneously address topics such as packaging and labeling requirements, as well as what role local jurisdictions should play in regulation and enforcement, Hanson said.

“Some states have tried or have passed legislation covering parts of the Washington effort, but perhaps not all,” she said.

We’ve always been for protecting the children and keeping it out of their hands, and also protecting adult access to the product

Marc Jarrett, part-owner of Banzai Vapors and vice president of pro-vaping group The Pink Lung Brigade

Jarrett, who is also the vice president of the pro-vaping group The Pink Lung Brigade, said he thinks Washington’s new regulations strike the right balance: They help keep vapor products away from kids, but still encourage adults to try vaping as an alternative to smoking cigarettes, he said.

The state rules allow vape shops to offer samples of their products to adult customers, something the industry fought for. The plan also avoids new taxes on vapor products, which Inslee and other Democrats had proposed last year.

“We’ve always been for protecting the children and keeping it out of their hands, and also protecting adult access to the product, and keeping it accessible for people to have that alternative to quit,” Jarrett said.

LICENSE FEES = MORE ENFORCEMENT

Dammeier said the new licensing fees will dramatically increase state enforcement of rules banning sales of tobacco and vapor products to minors.

The fees will generate about $2 million for the state every two years, which will help pay for more compliance checks at businesses that deal in tobacco and vapor products.

About 6,000 retailers will be affected by the new licensing rules, according to estimates from the state Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB), along with about 150 vapor products distributors. Companies will need to seek a separate license to sell vapor products online.

The LCB plans to implement the license and fee changes Oct. 1, though it could take longer, said McGill in the governor’s office. The agency intends to put out a call for license applications 30 days in advance, probably by September, he said.

In addition to retail vape shops, tobacco retailers will also see their annual license fees rise from $93 to $175 annually, the first time those fees have increased since 1993.

The most important thing is the state of Washington will now have a program to regulate e-cigarettes and vaping products, and the tools to prevent sales to minors.

State Rep. Gerry Pollet, D-Seattle

State Rep. Gerry Pollet, D-Seattle, said the increased money for enforcement will help pay for LCB officers to conduct compliance checks annually at tobacco and vaping retailers, instead of every few years, as has been the case recently.

Another slice of the revenue from fees and penalties — about $1.2 million per year — will go toward local campaigns to prevent youth smoking and vaping.

“Tobacco prevention advocates and the counties have been trying for two decades to raise the retail fee on cigarettes and to increase enforcement,” Pollet said.

“The most important thing is the state of Washington will now have a program to regulate e-cigarettes and vaping products, and the tools to prevent sales to minors.”

RULES NEGOTIATED WITH INDUSTRY

Lawmakers worked for weeks behind closed doors to broker a deal between members of the vaping industry, the tobacco industry, the state attorney general’s office and cancer prevention groups, Dammeier said.

One of the most hard-fought battles was deciding what would happen to local jurisdictions that have already enacted their own laws to regulate vaping, which include the health boards in Pierce, King, Snohomish, Grant and Clark counties.

As part of the compromise, the state law lets local jurisdictions enact their own bans on indoor vaping, as long as they permit sampling of vapor products in licensed shops. Local health boards can also ban vaping in outdoor areas where children congregate, though they can’t ban vaping outdoors in other areas.

The rules the Tacoma-Pierce County Board of Health approved late last year prohibit vaping inside almost all buildings, except for licensed retail outlets.

We don’t want (vape shops) to become a place where people bring their devices off the street and hang out for hours.

Frank DiBiase, environmental health division director for the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department

Frank DiBiase, director of the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department’s environmental health division, said the agency’s lawyers are still working to figure out which parts of Pierce County’s rules can stay and which need to go.

At this point, it’s clear the county health department will need to stop collecting licensing fees from businesses and cede enforcement efforts to the state, he said.

Yet DiBiase said he thinks some of Pierce County’s other policies — including those that try to prevent “vapor lounges” by limiting seating inside vape shops — could still be permitted under the state law.

Jarrett’s group, The Pink Lung Brigade, is suing the health department to try to stop those regulations from going into effect. On Friday, a Pierce County judge temporarily blocked part of the law that would have required vape shops to install expensive ventilation systems. The court has agreed to consider the merits of the rest of the case next month.

DiBiase said by limiting the number of people who can sample vaping products at one time, the health department hopes to reduce secondhand exposure to the vapors people exhale.

“We don’t want (vape shops) to become a place where people bring their devices off the street and hang out for hours,” DiBiase said.

Pollet, the Seattle Democrat, said he wishes the law allowed jurisdictions like Pierce County to charge extra fees to help them enforce their local regulations.

McHale, the lobbyist for the American Cancer Society’s action network, said that’s something public health advocates will push for next year.

“It’s important for local health jurisdictions to have the ability to put regulations in place for their local communities,” McHale said. “In the future, we will be looking to give that authority back to them.”

Melissa Santos: 360-357-0209, @melissasantos1

Places where vaping will soon be banned in Washington

  • On school property.
  • Within 500 feet of a school.
  • Daycares.
  • Elevators.
  • School buses.
  • Playgrounds.

The ban will take effect 90 days after Gov. Inslee signs it.

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