Lawsuit seeks to overturn Washington's ban on flavored vape products

SEATTLE -- An organization that represents vape store owners has filed a lawsuit against the state Department of Health and the board that oversees it in an effort to reverse the temporary ban on all flavored vape products in Washington state.

The Vapor Technology Association and one of its members are asking a judge to overturn the temporary ban, claiming the state moved too fast and didn't consider other evidence that shows vape products are a safer alternative to cigarettes.

The statewide, temporary ban on all flavored vape products - both THC and nicotine - took effect Oct. 10. It will last for 120 days if it's not overturned by a judge - and the state can choose to renew the ban when it expires.

Gov. Jay Inslee asked the state Board of Health to approve the ban in response to a growing number of vaping-related severe lung illnesses and deaths.

There have been 12 cases of severe lung illnesses tied to vaping in Washington state. The CDC is reporting nearly 1,300 cases of vaping-associated lung injury nationwide and 26 deaths.

Vape shop owners say the ban forces them to pack up their most popular products, and they're seeing a big drop in sales. For some shops, the financial setback was enough to force them to close.

Vaping supporters hope the judge in Washington will follow judges in Oregon and New York who have halted bans in their respective states.

In Oregon, where two people have died from vaping-related illnesses, the temporary injunction against the vaping ban only applies to tobacco-based vaping products. The ban on flavored marijuana vaping products is still in effect.

Meanwhile, King County government and a school district in Skagit County have both filed lawsuits against mega e-cigarette retailer JUUL labs over the drastic rise in youth vaping. The lawsuit asks a judge to rule that JUUL Labs is liable for the teen vaping epidemic in King County.

The Vapor Technology Association says shop owners are willing to work with the state to address the youth vaping problem.