March 28, 2016
Office of the Attorney General
The Washington State Senate today approved a bill to reduce youth access to vapor products, in a 37-6 vote. The bill combines multiple proposals, including agency request legislation from Attorney General Bob Ferguson and Governor Jay Inslee.
The bill now heads to the House of Representatives.
The revised bill, Senate Bill 6328, sponsored by Sen. Bruce Dammeier (R-Puyallup), establishes a strong set of statewide rules for the sale of e-cigarettes and vapor products similar to Washington’s youth access laws for tobacco. The bill now goes to the House of Representatives for reconciliation.
Currently, there is virtually no regulation of nicotine products like e-cigarettes and vapor products that are harmful to children. Stores and online retailers selling e-cigarettes are not required to be licensed by the state, there is no statewide enforcement of the prohibition against selling vapor products to minors, and there are few regulations to protect consumers.
The legislation creates retail, distributor, and delivery licenses for the sale of e-cigarettes and vapor products, enabling the state to track the sale and origin of e-cigarettes, as well as “e-juice” or concentrated nicotine used in vapor products.
“This bill is an important step in protecting our kids from a largely unregulated industry,” Ferguson said. “By increasing enforcement and labeling requirements, we increase public safety and empower consumers to make informed decisions on what they consume.”
Fees from these licenses will triple the enforcement dollars going to the Liquor and Cannabis Board for tobacco and vapor product enforcement, to ensure these products are not sold to children. The increased fees will also triple state dollars spent on youth prevention.
The bill increases the fines for selling vapor or tobacco products to minors to double the current fines for illegal tobacco sales.
The bill also adds additional strong protections for minors, including:
- Requiring child-resistant packaging and restricting open display cases;
- Requiring warning labels on all e-cigarette and vapor product packaging;
- Requiring vapor product manufacturers to disclose the nicotine content of each product;
- Requiring Internet sellers to verify the age of the prospective buyer; and
- Banning the use of vapor products in parks, schoolyards, and other areas where children congregate.
In 2015, at least 61 e-cigarette poisonings were reported to the Washington State Poison Control Center, with 84 percent concerning 1- to 3-year-olds.
There are few safety regulations on e-cigarettes and vapor products. The federal Food and Drug Administration does not currently regulate ingredients or safety claims made by manufacturers. Some products labeled “nicotine-free” actually contain small amounts of nicotine, and an AGO investigation found some e-liquids being falsely marketed as organic.
A Harvard study recently discovered diacetyl, an ingredient known to cause “popcorn lung” in 75 percent of flavored e-liquids they tested.
Ferguson’s original bill, House Bill 1645, passed the House Feb. 12, and was sponsored by Rep. Gerry Pollet (D-Seattle). Sen. David Frockt (D-Seattle) sponsored its companion, Senate Bill 5573.
HB 1645 was referred to Senate Ways and Means, where SB 6328 languished. Work began to combine the two bills and advance the policy.
Ferguson thanked the coalition of advocates and lawmakers whose work made today’s legislation possible: Gov. Inslee, Secretary of Health John Wiesman, the American Cancer Society, Rep. Polett, Sen. Frockt, Sen. Dammeier, Rep. Eileen Cody (D-Seattle), Sen. Annette Cleveland (D-Vancouver) and Rep. Paul Harris (R-Vancouver).
Legislative Affairs Director Mike Webb and Assistant Attorneys General Rusty Fallis and Janis Snoey worked to draft the original agency request legislation and craft the final bill passed today.