PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A number of Washington County businesses are celebrating on Wednesday after an injunction was filed to halt the county’s ban on flavored vaping products, allowing them to put the products back on shelves.
The ban was put in place by the county last year and upheld by voters with more than 75% support this spring. The county ordinance bans flavored vaping products, including tobacco, vaporized nicotine, marijuana and CBD.
One small business told KOIN 6 that flavored vaping is almost everything they sell, to the point they considered having to close because the revenue wasn’t coming in.
This week marks some of the first product orders in weeks for Serenity Vapor Lounge after a Washington County ordinance banned flavored vaping products, leaving them to only sell a limited supply of tobacco-flavor vapors.
“It makes up a majority of our business, over 80%,” said Jordan Schwartz, owner of Serenity Vapor Lounge. “Unfortunately, we have three locations all located within Washington County.”
Serenity Vapor, along with King’s Hookah Lounge and Torched Illusions, joined together to file a lawsuit earlier in 2022 against the ordinance, and this week, an injunction was signed, halting that ban.
“They were losing thousands of dollars per day in sales to adults 21 years of age and older,” said Tony Aiello, Jr., the attorney representing them through Tyler Smith and Associates. “They were facing the inevitability of terminating employees, closing locations, breaching leases.”
It’s welcomed news for some customers visiting the shop in Tigard. Jeremy Blondke says the flavored vapes helped him to stop using cigarettes when tools like gum and the patch didn’t work.
“I would use the tobacco-flavored ones but that would be really disappointing when I’m used to having different flavors that I like,” said Blondke. “That’s what made it easier in the first place to transition from cigarettes to these is that’s one more benefit. It has a better flavor, it’s not all gross.”
Following the lawsuit, Washington County Public Health said the county had already asked the court to dismiss the complaint and they are waiting for the court’s decision. They also told KOIN 6 that the county had not begun active enforcement yet of the ordinance.
“Washington County has not begun active enforcement of the ordinance, so there is no practical effect from the preliminary injunction. The county has already asked the court to dismiss the plaintiff’s original complaint and we are waiting for the court’s decision. In the meantime, retailers in Washington County can sell retailed tobacco products,” said Mary Sawyers with Washington County Public Health.
Schwartz hopes this will cause local leaders to rethink the ordinance and work with small business owners when making decisions.
“Instead of working against the vapor industry, work with us,” said Schwartz. “We have a lot of good ideas and we’d like to be invited to some of the work groups.”
KOIN 6 asked Washington County to clarify when they had planned on enforcing the ordinance and if businesses were aware it wasn’t being enforced, but there has been no response. Schwartz says it was unclear whether the county was going to enforce it or not, but employees did not feel comfortable keeping the products out during the ordinance.