King County Executive Dow Constantine on Wednesday called for swift action to tackle the risks that vaping nicotine and other products pose to public health, particularly among young people.
Vaping among youth in King County continues to increase at a staggering pace. Between 2016 and 2018, rates of E-cigarette use increased 82 percent among 10th graders and one in four high school seniors reported vaping in the last 30 days, according to a county news release.
At the same time that we are seeing this impact locally, Washington state law preempts local jurisdictions from taking actions to regulate tobacco products including E-cigarettes and other vaping devices.
“With the recent surge in severe lung illnesses, and what we already know about the addictive products used in vaping, we can no longer be hampered in protecting the health of our young people,” Constantine said. “It is imperative that the state take further action and expand regulations on tobacco and vaping products. If the Legislature is unwilling to strengthen statewide protections, then it must lift preemption. Just like with firearms, state law prevents local jurisdictions from swiftly responding to the unique health issues impacting their communities.”
Among the actions King County would consider if it had authority include:
• Banning all flavored products, which are marketed to youth.
• Creating a local tax to discourage youth use and fund prevention programs.
• Enabling local regulations and enforcement of point-of-sale laws regarding tobacco and vaping sales.
Nicotine is a highly addictive substance. A single JUUL pod (a cartridge of vape liquid) contains as much nicotine as a pack of cigarettes, or 200 cigarette puffs. This powerful nicotine punch is putting a new generation of youth at risk for nicotine dependence. Nicotine during adolescence and young adulthood can have long-term negative impacts on brain development and can cause addiction.
With the latest local report of severe lung illnesses related to vaping, there is even greater potential harm from E-cigarette products.