PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — As the number of reported illnesses related to vaping grows, health officials and lawmakers are taking action.
Washington Governor Jay Inslee issued an executive order Friday asking the Washington Department of Health to ban flavored vaping products, including those containing nicotine and cannabis.
Inslee said the only reason vaping flavors like cinnamon exist is to appeal to young people.
“Their interest is in making money, our interest is in the health of our children,” Inslee said. “It’s time for the state of Washington to protect these kids and that’s what we’re doing.”
Health officials, Liquor and Cannabis Board members and other legislators joined Inslee for the announcement.
“I am confident this executive order will save lives,” Inslee said. “I am confident it will save youth from a lifetime of addiction.”
Attorney General Bob Ferguson spoke Friday about the recently passed bill to raise the legal age to buy tobacco products from 18 to 21. He said reducing the use of vaping products by young people is the next step for the legislature.
Oregon Governor Kate Brown is working to ban vaping products.
“I am also requesting that the Department of Justice advise my office on what legal options are available to the state, up to and including the temporary ban of all vaping products,” she said.
The Oregon Health Authority advised the public to stop using all vaping products immediately.
Brown directed the Oregon Health Authority to present further action within 24 hours.
On Friday the OHA returned that call to action by submitting a set of policy proposals to the Governor’s office. Among the list of suggestions was a 6-month ban on the sale of all vaping products—including nicotine, tobacco, and cannabis.
Other options include:
- Increasing access to industry-approved quitting methods and prevention services
- Implementing a statewide, multimedia prevention campaign which discourages vaping and similar products
- Requesting the FDA regulate vaping products, put a moratorium on online tobacco sales, and on the advertising of vaping products
- Encourage all health care providers to report cases of acute lung injuries linked to vaping to OHA
- Compile a group of health experts and agency leaders to come up with further recommendations on both short and long term policies.
The Governor’s office issued the following statement about OHA’s suggestions:
“Governor Brown thanks Director Allen and the public health experts at the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) for providing potential options today to address the public health threat posed by vaping-related serious lung illnesses. The Department of Justice is reviewing the options that have been laid out by OHA, and in the coming weeks, our office will be working closely with DOJ, OHA, and other relevant state agencies to determine a path forward under Oregon law that protects the public health of all Oregonians when it comes to vaping products. In the meantime, Governor Brown urges all Oregonians to heed the public health warning issued by OHA yesterday and to cease the use of vaping products.”
The recent legislative action is not without controversy. Industry owners and many e-cigarette users are pushing back against flavor bans, arguing the health warnings are overreaching.
A group gathered Friday in Salem to send a message to the Oregon Capitol.
“We’re legitimate companies being turned into a bad guy through the eyes of our legislatures,” said vape shop owner Joseph Gilpatrick. “This is not a vaping issue, this is a THC issue.”
Gilpatrick worries the trend will have negative outcomes.
“All this is gonna do is bring people back to smoking cigarettes,” he said.
Two people in Oregon have now died as a result of severe lung illness related to vaping.
“What we have seen in this epidemic is that we have individuals that are very naive to vaping who have only started vaping for a short time and can have this illness and we do not know the long term impacts of vaping,” Dr. Dean Sidelinger with OHA said.
The Oregon cases are part of a national outbreak of severe lung injuries linked to vaping and e-cigarette use, according to the OHA. More than 800 cases have been reported across the country and 12 additional people (not including this most recent death) have died in 10 states, including Oregon’s first fatality announced earlier this month.
The CDC said its investigation suggests THC products play some kind of role in the outbreak and are connected to a large majority of cases. Scientists have cautioned, however, that no one single product, substance or brand can be held responsible.
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