Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said Thursday he wants the Legislature to regulate electronic cigarettes like tobacco products through taxes, sales requirements and advertising restrictions.
Inslee said survey results about Washington teens' use of e-cigarettes — known as "vaping" — support the need to pass legislation now pending in the state Senate and House that would impose new restrictions on the products.
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He cited a 2014 survey of Washington students that showed 8.5 percent of eighth-graders had tried e-cigarettes, with the number rising for higher grades. Nearly a quarter of the high school seniors surveyed said they had tried vaping, Inslee said at a news conference.
State poison control calls related to the fluid used to load e-cigarettes shot from two in 2010 to 182 in 2014.
"These devices, we have now found with some research, are a clear and present danger to the health of our children," Inslee said.
Although the long-term risks of electronic cigarette usage are still not definitively known, Inslee said the survey indicates teenagers are still using tobacco products at a rate consistent with figures from before vaping become common, which suggests the new products aren't substituting for cigarette use and its litany of known health risks.
The products are, however, cultivating a regular nicotine habit in young people, Inslee and health experts said.
"Typically, these young people are blissfully unaware of just how addicting nicotine is," said Dr. David Ricker, a pediatric pulmonary specialist at Tacoma's Mary Bridge hospital.
Inslee's requested e-cigarette legislation in the House and Senate would forbid Internet sales, impose tobacco taxes, require child-resistant packaging of vaping products, and outlaw flavored e-cigarettes.
Both bills were introduced in January, but neither has been set for a committee hearing. Inslee's budget proposal in December included a tax on e-cigarettes.