The SBOH Board Meetings provide a public forum for engagement with the State public health system.
On Wednesday at 9:30am PT @ the Department of Health (DOH), the State Board of Health (SBOH) Board Meeting was scheduled to occur.
- The SBOH last convened on November 18th where members implemented a ban on vapor products containing vitamin E acetate, following the October 9th meeting where members implemented a new prohibition on “flavored vapor products.”
- Both actions were undertaken as emergency rulemaking, which by definition (RCW 34.05.350(2)) expires after 120 days unless action is taken to repeal or extend the rules. The initial flavor ban was filed with the Office of the Code Reviser on October 10th and effective immediately, setting its expiration for Friday February 7th. As that date is prior to the SBOH’s next scheduled board meeting on March 11th, we expect the Board will at least discuss its plan for the ban. While there is a Department of Health (DOH) update scheduled on the latest agenda, there is no corresponding rulemaking activity detailed.
The Board reviewed the latest information on vapor associated lung injuries (VALI).
- Kathy Lofy, Department of Health (DOH) State Health Officer and Chief Science Officer, reported on vaping-associated lung injuries (VALI) at the federal and state level (audio - 6m).
- Lofy said federal health officials had been confident that vitamin E acetate was the primary compound of concern and “that association still stands” following several control tests. Lofy reported federal officials were now conducting VALI tests on animals.
- Of 2,561 cases nationwide at the end of December 2019, 13% had reported vaping using products without tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). By contrast, Lofy confirmed that in Washington state, nearly 43% of cases were said to be from non-THC vape items.
- Lofy noted that Tobacco 21 legislation became law at the state and federal levels (audio - 1m) while vape regulation was DOH’s 2nd legislative priority for 2020 (audio - 2m). Governor Jay Inslee’s proposed supplemental budget included one million dollars for reducing tobacco and vape use and “some money” dedicated to regulation (audio - 2m).
SBOH's legal counsel briefed on progress of a lawsuit against the agency over their authority to enact an emergency ban on flavored vapor products.
- Lilia Lopez, Assistant Attorney General and counsel for the SBOH, briefed on the lawsuit against state agencies brought by the Vapor Technology Association (VTA). She said that a “written order” upheld the agency's authority to pass an emergency ban on flavored vapor products last October (audio - 7m).
- However, the Thurston County Superior Court judge informed the state appeals court that there was “substantial ground for difference of opinion on a controlling question of law” leaving the door open for an expedited appeal of his ruling.
- VTA appealed the lower court’s ruling and was required to file a brief by Monday January 13th. A response would be due from the SBOH’s attorneys “three weeks after that.”
- Oral arguments in the suit would be in March, after the expiration of flavored vapor products ban in February. Lopez observed that, by that time, the challenge may be “a question of mootness.”