Politics & Government

Senate OKs requiring warning labels, child-resistant packaging on vapor products

A plan to require child-resistant packaging and warning labels for the liquid nicotine used in electronic cigarettes unanimously passed the state Senate on Tuesday.

Supporters of Senate Bill 5477 said it would help prevent young children and toddlers from getting poisoned by the nicotine liquid, while also discouraging the use of vapor products among teenagers.

E-cigarettes are battery-powered devices that vaporize liquid nicotine to create the sensation of smoking a cigarette. They have become popular in recent years as an alternative for smokers trying to kick the tobacco habit.

The legislation approved Tuesday by the Senate would make it a gross misdemeanor for a manufacturer to knowingly sell liquid nicotine products — or other products designed for use in e-cigarettes or vape pens — without child-resistant packaging.

The measure would also require vaping products and e-cigarettes to bear labels warning consumers that nicotine is harmful and to keep the products away from children.

State law already prohibits sales of e-cigarettes and vaping products to minors. But Sen. Bruce Dammeier, the sponsor of the legislation, said he is concerned about rising reports of young children getting poisoned by nicotine liquid, as well as the popularity of vaping among young adults.

“We’re all keenly aware of the dramatic explosion of vapor products in our society, and in particular many of the detrimental effects they have on our youth,” said Dammeier, R-Puyallup. “It is a product safety bill and a child safety bill.”

Dammeier’s legislation would also mandate that schools ban vaping on school grounds and that stores selling vaping products post signs stating that they won’t sell to minors. If vaping stores allow minors inside, they would have to ensure the products can’t be accessed without the help of a clerk.

Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee has proposed similar regulations aimed at preventing minors from vaping or accessing nicotine liquid, but his plan would impose a 95 percent tax on the products as well.

Dammeier said he would like the Legislature to approve the child-safety protections separately, to avoid their getting mired in a debate on taxes.

Jaime Smith, a spokeswoman for Inslee, said the governor thinks a tax would be one of the most effective ways of deterring youths from using vaping products.

Still, the governor’s office is supportive of Dammeier’s bill, she said.

“Anything we can do to prevent minors from gaining access to these products is progress,” Smith said.