Oregon’s Court of Appeals has put a halt to the state’s ban on flavored vaping products two days after it took effect.
The Oregon Health Authority (OHA) and the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) filed temporary rules Friday, Oct. 11, that put into effect Gov. Kate Brown’s Oct. 4 executive order banning all flavored vaping product sales in the state.
Brown’s office responded to the Headlight’s inquiry regarding the governor’s next step, saying in light of the nearly 1,500 reported cases of vaping-related lung injuries nationwide and 33 deaths – including two in Oregon – a temporary ban under the state’s emergency rulemaking process is the best choice to protect public health. Nine cases of vaping-related illness have been reported in Oregon.
“The court’s decision to enter a temporary stay yesterday is unfortunate due to the ongoing public health threat posed by vaping-related illness,” said Kate Kondayen, deputy communications director at the governor’s office.
“In the meantime, in the absence of action from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to adequately regulate vaping products, Governor Brown will continue to work with the Vaping Public Health Workgroup, state agencies, stakeholders, and the Legislature to find long-term solutions that will protect the public health from vaping-related illness,” Kondayen said.
Brown continues urging Oregonians to heed the public health warning of the OHA and to stop vaping immediately. A cause of the illnesses has not been determined, but all cases have reported e-cigarette use or vaping. Investigators and local public health authorities continue to urge clinicians to be on alert for signs of severe respiratory illness among patients and report any cases.
The temporary rules, which will remain in effect for six months as of Oct. 15, prohibit the sale of all flavored vaping products – including online sales – to consumers in Oregon. The ban covers all tobacco and cannabis vaping products that contain natural or artificial flavors, including, but not limited to: chocolate, coffee, cocoa, menthol, mint, wintergreen, vanilla, honey, coconut, licorice, nuts, fruit, any candy, dessert, alcoholic or non-alcoholic beverage, herb or spice.
Tobacco-flavored tobacco or nicotine products as well as marijuana-flavored marijuana or THC products that use only marijuana-derived flavorings, including terpenes, are not included in the ban.
Retailers found violating the temporary rules will receive a warning letter and recommendations on coming into compliance. Continued violations could result in civil penalties of up to $500 per day, per violation. In addition, cannabis retailers or processors could face violations up to and including cancellation of their license.
Additional components of vaping products could be banned in the future. The governor’s executive order directs OHA and OLCC to “take immediate action and adopt additional emergency rules” to prohibit any chemical or containment found to have caused or contributed to vaping-associated lung injuries being investigated in Oregon and 48 other states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
OHA and OLCC officials say the temporary rules filed Oct. 11 are significant steps toward stemming the well-documented tide of e-cigarette use and vaping by youth as well as keeping products that may expose people to unsafe chemicals and other contaminants off store shelves.
Among Oregon high school students who use e-cigarettes exclusively, nearly 90 percent use flavored e-cigarette products, OHA found. The agency said there is strong evidence that e-cigarettes increase youth nicotine addiction and increase the risk that youth will start using combustible tobacco such as cigarettes.
“We have been warning Oregonians about the health effects of these products before this current outbreak of serious lung injury added more evidence of the dangers of vaping,” said Dean Sidelinger, M.D., health officer and state epidemiologist, in a press release. “These rules stop the sale of a potentially dangerous product, and they’re part of a comprehensive approach to curbing youth vaping and additional cases of vaping-associated lung injuries.”
Sidelinger points to additional directives in Brown’s executive order that call on OHA and OLCC to develop consumer warnings for THC and non-THC products, expand easy access to FDA-approved cessation resources, implement a statewide prevention and education campaign, and submit legal proposals with long-term solutions to reduce public health harms from vaping.
Oregon Medical Association immediately released a statement expressing strong support for the temporary ban. The advocacy group said liquid flavors such as bubble gum, fruit, and mint appeal to kids, and limiting access is an important step in preventing youth use and stopping a possible lifelong addiction.
The statement said health care organizations across the state are united on the temporary ban and continue to advocate for raising the price of tobacco products and e-cigarettes to deter tobacco and nicotine use.
“We have known for some time that vaping products – particularly those that are flavored – threaten to increase the number of youth addicted to nicotine,” the Oregon Medical Association statement said. “Given the increasing vaping-related illnesses and deaths over the last several months, urgent action is critical.”