Unfortunately, we just do not know. The investigation of the vaping illness outbreak has not clearly identified a common product or substance as the cause, so it could be many different products. The CDC and Washington State Department of Health are investigating all e-cigarettes and vapor products.
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At this time, we do not know if e-cigarettes are safer than cigarettes. Before the current outbreak of vaping-linked lung injuries, scientific studies suggested that people who completely switched from smoking to using electronic cigarettes would be exposed to fewer harmful chemicals. But the outbreak highlights that there is still a lot we do not know about e-cigarettes and vapor products. We also do not know the long-term effects of vaping, because these products have not been around long enough to study what they might do to long-term health.
E-cigarettes have not been proven to be effective tobacco cessation aids. Adults who use e-cigarettes, vapor products or other tobacco products and are attempting to quit should use evidence-based treatments, including counseling and FDA-approved medications.
Even without the smoke and tar of cigarettes, nicotine itself can damage your heart, arteries, and lungs, increasing your risk for heart attack, stroke, and chronic lung disease.
Nicotine is worse for young people, whose bodies are still developing. The use of nicotine during adolescence and young adulthood has been associated with lasting cognitive and behavioral impairments, including effects on working memory and attention. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nicotine can cause lasting harm to brain development, promote addiction, and lead to sustained tobacco use.
Vaping, like smoking cigarettes, has never been safe. From a public health perspective, there's still more we need to learn about vaping products and their short- and long-term effects. More regulation of vaping products and greater reporting requirements will help us to better identify public health risks.
Tribes are sovereign nations and enact their own laws. Some tribes in Washington are enacting their own policies that align with the emergency rules passed by the Washington State Board of Health.
In Washington, the Liquor and Cannabis Board has regulatory authority over the cannabis industry and vapor product retailers. They have authority over the production and sale of cannabis products. They have less authority over vapor product retailers but do enforce some regulations such as conducting compliance checks to ensure compliance with no-sales-to-minors.
The bigger challenge is around regulating e-cigarettes and nicotine vapor products. Currently, there are few federal or state regulations for e-cigarettes and nicotine vapor products.
The Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board is responsible to make sure retailers comply with the ban on flavored vape products. You can report violations of the rule on their website.