Bend lawmaker plans bill to ban sale of flavored e-cigs and vaping products

Oregon State Rep. Cheri Helt of Bend announced Thursday she will introduce a bill next session to ban the sale of all flavored e-cigarettes and vaping products.

The Republican also is asking Gov. Kate Brown to immediately issue a temporary ban on the sale of all vaping products in Oregon “to allow public health experts time to better understand the causes of life-threatening, vaping-related illnesses occurring in Oregon and across the nation.”

“Vaping is now a public health crisis, especially among teenagers,” Helt said. “Oregon needs an immediate pause in sales and stronger, longer term regulation of all vaping related products to save lives, prevent addiction and protect public health. This crisis knows no partisan, geographic or economic boundaries and our leadership and response should be no different.”

In a press release announcing her plans, Helt continued, “In July, Oregon experienced its first death related to vaping. In recent days, as a part of a national movement to address increasing illnesses and deaths related to vaping products, several states have taken legislative and executive actions to limit the retail and on-line sales of vaping related products.”

Officials have said nine people have died from the illness nationwide including the Oregon victim. That person reportedly used e-cigarettes, or vape pens, with THC, the psychoactive chemical in marijuana. Another Oregon victim who nearly died reported vaping the nicotine e-cigarette Juul.

Dr. Anne Schuchat, of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told a congressional subcommittee this week that she believes “hundreds more” lung illnesses have been reported to health authorities since last Thursday, when the CDC put the tally at 530 confirmed and probable cases.

“We are seeing more and more cases each day and I expect the next weekly numbers will be much higher,” Schuchat said.

The CDC is investigating the little-understood outbreak but has not yet identified a common electronic cigarette or ingredient.

The cases, which resemble an inhalation injury, have helped trigger a swift backlash against e-cigarettes, including a proposed federal ban on flavors by the Trump administration, state-level restrictions in Michigan and New York, and an end to sales in Walmart stores nationwide.

“Oregonians should not be a laboratory for the vaping industry to determine the dangers of these products,” Helt said. “We need to learn more and have stronger legal protections to protect the lives and health of Oregonians.”

Helt said that she intends to form a bipartisan coalition of legislators and work with the Oregon Health Authority and public health organizations to craft the legislation for the February 2020 legislative session.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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