Update on Vaping Associated Lung Injury (VALI)
News headlines are no longer dominated by the outbreak of lung illnesses eventually linked to vaping. However we have an update for you. Since the VALI outbreak began last summer, 2807 cases and 68 deaths from across the nation have been reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Both the CDC and our state’s Department of Health have been focused on COVID-19 response, and the number of VALI cases hasn’t been updated since February 19. Nonetheless VALI is still an important issue to which LCB is responding.
Recent actions in Washington
On March 11, the State Board of Health voted to extend the vitamin E acetate ban another 120 days. This applies to both cannabis and non-THC vapor products.
HB 2826 (Clarifying the authority of the liquor and cannabis board to regulate cannabis vapor products), LCB agency-request legislation, was passed by the legislature with nearly unanimous support and delivered to the Governor on March 11. It took effect immediately upon signage by the Governor on March 25. A few resulting considerations for licensees:
- Cannabis processors may incorporate in cannabis vapor products a characterizing flavor if the characterizing flavor is derived from botanical terpenes naturally occurring in the cannabis plant, regardless of source, and if the characterizing flavor mimics the terpene profile found in a cannabis plant. Characterizing flavors authorized under this section do not include any synthetic terpenes.
- The Liquor and Cannabis Board is empowered to adopt rules regarding requirements for processors to submit under oath to the Department of Health a complete list of all constituent substances and the amount and sources thereof in each cannabis vapor product, including all additives, thickening agents, preservatives, compounds, and any other substance used in the production and processing of each cannabis vapor product.
- Currently, all processor and producer/processor licensees must submit the cannabis Vapor Product Ingredient Disclosure form to LCB under emergency rules (WAC 314-55-1055 – Ingredient Disclosure) filed by LCB on February 5. More information, and the form itself, is available here: https://lcb.wa.gov/vape/cannabis-licensees
LCB is planning future rule development on this topic as we explore the science, best practices, and best routes to continue to ensure public safety. We continue to look to our licensed community to put the safety and health of Washingtonians at the forefront of practices regarding ingredients in vapor products.
State law requires:
- Three vapor product licenses for retailers, distributors, and delivery sellers.
- Licensing fees that change for all tobacco retailers.
- Penalties and fines to increase for all tobacco retailers.
The law, RCW 70.345, regulating vapor products will impact all tobacco retailers became effective June 28, 2016. It applies to items such as the ban on open displays, tasting restrictions, ad restrictions on coupons, as well as requirements for child-resistant packaging and labeling. The law regulates all vapor products, whether or not they contain nicotine, and is intended to provide Washingtonians with consumer protection, child safety, and to eliminate youth access.
In 2019, the legislature clarified the tax on tobacco products to include e-cigarettes, vape pens, and other vaping products, despite the fact that no tobacco or cigarette tax had been previously paid on these products. As of January 1, 2020, tobacco products (including vapor products) will be prohibited for use under the age of 21.
Links to related laws:
- Vapor law: RCW 70.345 (2016)
- Vapor products, taxes: E2SHB 1873 (2019)
- Vapor products, legal age for: EHB 1074, CH 15 (2019)
- Flavored vapor products ban of: Board of Health Emergency Rule