Oregon agency supports flavored e-cig ban, businesses prepare

MEDFORD, Ore.– The Trump administration’s proposed federal ban on flavored e-cigarettes has received the support of Oregon’s state health agency.

The Oregon Health Authority weighed in on the health concerns surrounding vaping and e-cigarettes and announced on Thursday it supports the ban. Some retail businesses in the Rogue Valley focused on selling flavored e-cigarettes are now preparing for the worst.

“90 percent of our products are all flavored products,” said Derek Van Horn, owner of Stone Cold Vapors in Medford.

NBC5 News spoke with several e-cigarette retail stores to get an idea of how they were handling their business in the wake of the proposed ban. Several said they were taking things day-by-day and waiting to see what would happen next. For Van Horn, he’s getting ready to liquidate his products and find a new route if it gets to that point.

“I think we should be aware of what we’re putting into our bodies and regulate what we put into our bodies,” he said. “But I feel like a lot of this is being blown out of proportion.”

In a statement, the OHA said, “The science is clear. Flavors are a key component of youth use and initiation of tobacco products, which is a major public health concern in Oregon.” In the last two years, the agency has sent comments to the FDA and pointed to data showing in Oregon, e-cigarettes are the most popular product with 21 percent of 11th graders in 2018 reporting using e-cigarettes.

Van Horn agrees there should be regulations for how companies market to children. But he says that’s not the whole picture.

“With a lot of these cases of people being hospitalized, it’s coming from boot-legged products,” he said.

According to a New York Times article, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention warned people not to buy vaping products off the streets and not to modify vaping devices for both nicotine and THC.

The Oregon Liquor Control Commission also notified licensed marijuana retailers in the state Thursday about the CDC looking into additives such as Vitamin E. A flyer including warnings and reiterating the CDC’s suggestions on e-cigarettes was sent out to retailers to post in their business.

The letter stated while there was no conclusive evidence at this point, the agency had concerns of Vitamin E in the nicotine or THC cartridges for e-cigarette liquid. The OLCC said it was concerned about “the potential risk of serious health consequences to Oregon consumers unknowingly exposed to Vitamin E additives contained in vaping cartridges.”

It warned retailers to check products for Vitamin E names such as “tocopheryl acetate” or “alpha‐tocopherol” by calling the manufacturer.

“That seems to be the common link at this point,” said Sidney Childres, manager at Hijinx Cannabis Co. in Medford which carries THC e-cigarettes. “We did due diligence on checking our ingredient’s list on things, for instance, to look for those two named compounds that the OLCC has said.

Childres says plenty of people have come in with questions and they’ve tried their best to answer them. But all they can do now is check to make sure their products are safe in accordance with what OLCC and the CDC are saying.

“I think it has people more conscious of what they’re getting and more conscious of where that’s coming from,” said Childres.

But the ban still has the potential to move forward. Van Horn agrees that it’s great more people are being conscientious of what they’re using. He would prefer that the federal government pump the brakes and consider all the angles before an outright ban.

According to the CDC, six deaths nationwide, including one Oregonian, and 380 cases of respiratory illness are related to e-cigarette use. To learn more you can visit the CDC, OHA, or OLCC pages for the latest information.

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