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Vaping: A growing epidemic with very little regulation

The Washington State Board of Health is expected to act Wednesday on Governor Inslee’s executive order to ban flavored vaping products.

“Look, when you addict a 12 year old kid to nicotine, you’re just wrong,” Inslee said.

Like many in the industry, Zach McLain who operates Future Vapor in Seattle insists he only sells e-cigarette products to adults, many of whom are trying to stop smoking.

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“And we’ve got to remember, 1,300 Americans die every day from smoking. That’s going to happen today, that’s going to happen tomorrow. It’s going to happen for the rest of the year.”

There’s limited proof vaping helps smokers quit, however, and the Food and Drug Administration has not approved it as a smoking cessation tool.

And although the FDA says it does have the right to regulate e-cigarettes, little has been done, according to King County Health Department Doctor Jeff Duchin.

“They haven’t really exercised any meaningful oversight over the manufacture or safety of these products, right now,” Duchin said. “Really, no one knows what they’re getting when they buy one of these products, whether it be a device, or a solution, or a flavoring.”

As for products that list FDA-approved chemicals or additives, he says that only means they’re safe to eat or drink.

“When you put them in one of these devices they become heated up and they form new chemicals, and we have no clue about how safe they may be.”

While the federal government has been largely hands off, Washington state does regulate the sale and purchase of e-cigarettes.

Starting in January 2020, only adults 21 and over will be able to buy e-cigarettes or traditional tobacco products.

There are slightly tighter state controls on cannabis products which list content, and are tested and tracked.

Chairman and CEO John Gorst says Ionic Brands goes further.

“We have actual scientists that are on staff that are working on these different formulations of our products to ensure that they’re compliant and that they’re as safe as possible,” Gorst said.

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But in this relatively young industry there are questions about how safe vaping anything is.

And as the state moves to tighten regulations, people in the industry worry that will simply push customers to the completely unregulated black market and force legitimate vape shops out of business.

“You want someone that believes in these products. You want someone that has their heart in it and has never been interested in selling these products to children,” McLain said.

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