OLYMPIA – Today, Thurston County moved forward with an official complaint against manufacturers of vaping products for deceptive marketing practices, including in marketing their product to youth. Thurston County joins the efforts of multiple local governments in Washington working to hold vaping manufacturers accountable for damage to their communities.
“I find it completely unacceptable that an industry, with a known addictive component in their product, appears to have purposely targeted their product to youth,” said Commission Chair, and Board of Health Vice-Chair, John Hutchings. “We know that in Thurston County alone, 32% of 12th graders use vapes, and that number may be low because these numbers are self-reported. Knowing that at least one in three 12th graders vape is not okay with me.”
Thurston County Prosecuting Attorney Jon Tunheim said, “With this lawsuit, we intend to bust the myth that vaping is a safe substitute to smoking and hold these companies accountable for using that myth to target our youth with dangerous and addictive products.”
In the lawsuit, Thurston county alleges that vaping manufacturers have erased years of public health progress in combating youth cigarette smoking. The harms include, but are not limited to: (1) increased youth vaping rates; (2) increased youth nicotine addiction rates; and (3) school and county expenditures—both monetary and staff time—in implementing anti-vaping measures, developing and disseminating educational materials, identifying and supporting treatment options for youth nicotine addiction, providing resources and training to the community on issues surrounding youth vaping and youth nicotine addiction; and (4) reduced effectiveness of funding and other investments in initiatives and programs to decrease the rate of youth nicotine use.
Vaping products are pod-based e-cigarette devices that use a highly addictive salt-based nicotine. Youth vaping has grown rapidly in the past few years across the nation. Vaping products appeal to youth through their design, flavors, and smell. Because teen brains are still growing, becoming exposed to a drug like nicotine can harm adolescent brain development. Research shows young people who use e-cigarettes are at higher risk for using regular cigarettes.