Vape ban worries local businesses

MEDFORD, Ore. — One week after Gov. Kate Brown took executive action against flavored vaping products, all forms of it will be banned statewide starting next week.

On October 15, flavored vaping products will be pulled off the shelves across Oregon. The temporary ban comes after two Oregonians died from vaping related illnesses.

“The tragedy of this crisis is acutely felt here in Oregon,” said Oregon Liquor Control Commission Senior Policy Advisor Danica Hibpshman, “given that two of those nationally reported deaths have occurred in this state.”

The Centers for Disease Control reports nearly 1300 cases of vaping-related illnesses across 49 states, killing 26 people. TJ Sheehy with the OLCC Marijuana Technical Unit said Oregon, however, stands out. “In places like California, the Midwest, New York, the problem has predominately been that of counterfeit items, illicitly purchased items,” he said.

“At least five of the nine individuals that have been sick consumed marijuana and all five of them shopped at OLCC licensed stores,” said Sheehy, leading officials to target the flavors added in.

The ban announced Friday centers on terpenes, essentially flavors and scents that can be natural, botanical or artificial. All flavorings that aren’t derived from marijuana and created within the OLCC license system are banned for the next six months.

“They’re not licensed by us, they’re not regulated by us, they are not licensed or regulated by anyone else,” Sheehy said describing the lack of proven safety in products coming from manufacturers not regulated by the OLCC.

“It is unfortunate we are lumped in with the THC products,” said Bob Foote, CEO of ECBlend, a store that exclusively sells and manufactures nicotine and tobacco vape products, including liquid.  “This was a little… hit us a little hard and a little sooner than we might have expected, as far as having to deal with flavor bans.”

Foote said while they weren’t exactly prepared, they’ve been tracking what’s happening in other states, waiting for it to come here. “We have over 100 employees,” Foote said, “each and every one of them is concerned as they should be, along with all of the executive management.”

Foote said, for now, he and his staff will rely on the sales of hardware, non-flavored products and sales from online and out-of-state stores to get by hoping it’s enough. “We obviously have to still make some of a profit to survive,” he said, “you know you can only sustain a loss for so long, so hopefully this ban won’t put it such that we’re not able to keep our doors open.”

The OLCC said they’ll spend the next six months working to develop regulatory changes at the state level to make sure flavored vaping products aren’t deadly.

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