OLYMPIA — A bill to crack down on the use of vapor and tobacco products among minors was signed into law by Gov. Jay Inslee. SB 5365, sponsored by Sen. Rebecca Saldaña (D-Seattle), focuses on holding retailers and adults accountable for allowing minors to access tobacco products. The bill recognizes that minors who use these products may have a substance use disorder requiring professional healthcare support rather than punishment.
“Protecting our youth from the harmful effects of tobacco and vapor products is a critical public health issue,” Saldaña said. “This new law focuses on prevention, rehabilitation, and accountability rather than punishment.”
Current laws that aim to prevent youth from using vapor and tobacco products are not effective and have disproportionately negative effects on youth based on race and sexual orientation. This bill proposes counter-marketing to oppose the millions of dollars spent on marketing targeted at youth by vapor and tobacco sellers.
The new law increases fines for retailers who sell vapor and tobacco products to people under the age of 18. The 2021 Healthy Youth Survey found that 15 percent of retail stores illegally sold tobacco or vapor products to minors, and youth under age 18 are far more likely to start using tobacco than adults.
Saldaña’s legislation repeals penalties for individuals under 18 who use, purchase, or possess vapor or tobacco products and would offer community-based interventions to help them quit tobacco use.
This law also creates the Youth Tobacco and Vapor Products Prevention account to receive fees from increased fines paid by licensed retailers who violate vapor and tobacco laws. The funds will be used to provide grants to local health departments or other local community agencies to develop and implement coordinated tobacco and vapor product intervention strategies to prevent and reduce tobacco and vapor product use by youth.
This new law is an important step towards creating a healthier and safer future for all Washingtonians.