PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The 21+ Tobacco and Vapor Retail Association of Oregon filed a lawsuit against Multnomah County for banning flavored tobacco and vaping products containing nicotine.
The ban is set to take effect starting in 2024.
A similar ban in Washington County was struck down by a judge in Sept. 2022. While Senate Bill 587, which was passed in the 2021 legislative session, allows local governments to set regulations for tobacco products, VAR21 says it does not allow their prohibition.
“Association members have beaten an executive order from the governor, an attempted ban in Washington County, and we will beat the Multnomah County ban as well. We’re also engaged at the legislature and will aggressively fight against an appeal of our Washington County victory,” said Richard Burke, the Executive Director of VAR21. “Our industry is the one thing that has kept away unintended consequences associated with an expanded black market, dangers associated with illicit street products as acknowledged by the CDC and the removal of products which doctors acknowledge offer a safer alternative to traditional cigarettes.”
Those against the ban say they not only worry about possible job loss and business impact, but also the potential for a black market. This past November when the county first considered the ban on flavored tobacco and vaping products, they heard arguments from both sides. Those for the sales bans focused on the impact on youth.
“I care about our kids and flavored tobacco is killing our kids, both through marketing and actual usage,” Marcus C. Mundy with the Coalitions of Communities of Color told KOIN 6 on Nov. 28, 2022.
Retail organizations tell KOIN 6 they agree use should be limited to adults, adding that there are other ways to do that besides total sales bans, instead focusing on alternatives like mandatory ID scanners and carding regardless of apparent age.
Meanwhile, House Bill 3090 in the 2023 Oregon state legislative session proposes a statewide ban on flavored tobacco and vapor sales. Attorney Tony Aiello Jr, involved in both the Washington County and Multnomah County lawsuits, says if passed and signed into law, these local fights would be overpowered.
“If that bill is approved, it would likely moot the appeal and our case in Multnomah County because now the state would have said that flavors are banned statewide,” said Aiello Jr, a senior associate attorney with Tyler Smith and Associates, P.C.
If that doesn’t pass and a judge doesn’t rule in favor of Multnomah County businesses as seen in Washington County, then the sales ban would go into effect on Jan. 1, 2024.
KOIN 6 News reached out to Multnomah County regarding the lawsuit. Julie Sullivan-Springhetti, the county’s communication director, responded by saying they do not comment on litigation.