Folks are still in a tizzy about vaping related illness. This has led to a proposed flavored vape ban in Washington state. So why is everyone so worried? Despite the claims of hysteria, there is cause to believe there is a legitimate public health concern.

Vaping Related Illness by the Numbers

The number of vaping related illnesses reported to the CDC has more than doubled in less than a month.

According to the CDC:

  • As of October 1, 2019, 1,080* lung injury cases associated with using an e-cigarette, or vaping, products have been reported to CDC from 48 states and 1 U.S. territory.
  • Eighteen deaths have been confirmed in 15 states.
  • Most patients report a history of using THC-containing products. The latest national and regional findings suggest products containing THC plays a role in the outbreak.

*The increase in lung injury cases from last week represents both new patients and recent reporting of previously-identified patients to CDC.

None of the 18 deaths occurred in Washington. There have been two deaths in Oregon, however.

The Executive Order

In response to concern regarding vaping related illness, on September 27, Washington state Governor Jay Inslee issued an executive order that directs the Washington State Department of Health to: 

‘Ask the state Board of Health to adopt emergency rules to ban all flavored vapor products, including flavored THC products.’

In addition to banning ‘flavored vapor products,’ the order also asks the DOH and the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board to: 

  • Ban ingredients determined to be responsible for acute lung illness; 
  • Partner with the Governer to draft 2020 legislation that will ban flavored vapor products, 
  • Require vapor products to list ingredients; 
  • Increase regulations; 
  • Decrease bulk sales; 
  •  Improve the existing educational campaign; 
  • Elucidate the Department of Health’s role in public health and safety issues such as this.

Cannabis Industry Opinions

Jeffrey Freeman from MFused thinks more regulations of flavoring could have positive consequences. 

“We welcome more regulation,” Freeman told The Sesh. “It helps as we can isolate esters, terpenes, and other flavonoids that help create unique terpene sets. It’s good overall.”

Some folks in the cannabis industry are concerned about banning all flavored vapes, however. 

“No one knows what it will mean when the rules are out,” Ian Eisenberg explained. “What is a flavor? Natural versus synthetic sounds easy, but what about natural terpenes from other plants? What about terpenes removed in processing and then reintroduced to cartridges? There are more questions than answers.”

Are Terpenes Considered Flavor?

The language in the executive order doesn’t make the confusion about what will be included and excluded in the flavored vape ban any clearer. House Bill 1932, HB 1932,  aims to make the executive order permanent. The Health Impact Review of HB 1932 sheds some light on the flavor issue.

“Cannabis oils can have manufactured (e.g., non-cannabis derived) terpenes and terpene additives (e.g., not derived from a regulated plant) added as flavorants,” the review reads. “These additives are typically not well-regulated, and may contain contaminants that could pose health risks and/or not be designed for aerosolization.”

Despite the review’s explanation, there’s still a lot that’s up in the air.

What the Regulators are Saying

The Sesh reached out to the Department of Health (DOH), and the Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB) for comment about what all the flavored vape ban entails.

The DOH responded simply by referring The Sesh to the LCB’s Message to Cannabis Licensees, which advises cannabis retailers and processors how to comply with the executive order for now. 

The message requests that:

  • Retailers post the DOH and LCB provided sign warning of the dangers of vaping;
  • All packaging must disclose all product ingredients, including additives and terpenes.
  • All compounds (including ingredients, solvents, additives, etc.) used in the processing and added to the vape cartridges must be reported to the LCB.
  • And finally, processors and retailers must comply with the ongoing epidemiology investigation.

The LCB’s Director of Communications Brian Smith responded to The Sesh’s request for comment with the following statement:

“As this is a public health issue, the state Board of Health will make the determination on the flavor ban,” Smith explained. “I know that industry members have weighed in with the Board of Health on what they think criteria for the flavor ban should be. Under the direction of the Governor’s Office and health officials, the LCB will carry out the expectations outlined in the executive order.”

The Meeting

Inslee’s executive order instructed the Board of Health to ban all flavored vaping products using emergency authority. The ban is scheduled to be decided on at a Board of Health meeting being held on Wednesday, October 9 at the Seattle Airport Marriot in the Washington Ballroom. The meeting begins at 9:15 am, with the vaping issue on the agenda starting at 1:30 pm.

During the meeting, attendees will decide whether or not to put the ban in place. The ban would go in effect the next day. The ban would last 120 days and could be renewed.

Many legislators, cannabis consumers, and cannabis professionals are anxiously waiting for the meeting to find out the outcome.