Merkley acts to rope in vaping products as illnesses mount

U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley is taking aim at nicotine dependency – particularly for youth – with a bipartisan proposal to regulate e-cigarettes and ban flavored vaping products. (The Enterprise/File photo)

VALE – As the Trump administration weighs a ban on flavored vaping products in the wake of hundreds falling ill, one Oregon senator is introducing new legislation to regulate vaping products. 

U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley has teamed up with Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, to propose the Ending New Nicotine Dependencies Act, which seeks to regulate electronic cigarette standards, as well as to protect public health by banning non-tobacco flavored vaping products. 

“The Trump administration said they were going to act, but they haven’t acted yet,” Merkley told the Enterprise. 

“This is a diabolical scheme by the tobacco companies and their compatriots JUUL to make a ton of money compromising your health,” he said. “Do you want to be a participant in sacrificing your health for their profit?” 

Some states have banned certain vaping products, and retailers such as Walmart have stopped the sale of all electronic cigarettes. 


In Oregon, there are four confirmed cases of a vaping related illness that has swept the nation. One individual in the state succumbed to the illness in July.  

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that there are now 530 cases of the vaping-related illness, and a Missouri man is the eighth individual to die from the ailments that officials are still struggling to understand. 

Merkley and Romney’s legislation would ban all non-tobacco flavored vaping products because of their wide appeal to young people. 

Merkley said that the vaping industry is telling people that their products are meant for adults who are trying to quit smoking cigarettes. But this is only an excuse, Merkley said.

“It is clear what these are. This is about addicting kids. It is a youth addiction so they are targeting the youth,” Merkley added. 

The legislation would also draw attention to the problem with cartridge-based devices, given that they are easily tampered with and adulterated.  

In an interview, Merkley wanted to make it clear to people who continue to vape that it is important to be “fully aware that products are going to be tampered with and products are going to be dangerous.” 

Amid the current vaping-related health crisis there is a burgeoning black market for counterfeit THC vaping products. 

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently cautioned electronic cigarette users to avoid counterfeit vaping products.

These products, which contain THC, the active high-inducing chemical in marijuana, are being adulterated with other components, some dangerous when inhaled. 

These black market cartridges are sold on the streets and are available on the internet. 

“Now we’ve got the additional problem some people are running enterprises making carts and selling them on the black market,” Merkley said. 

Merkley said that the joint legislation would focus on eliminating the kid-friendly flavors and the cartridges, he said. 

According to federal data on 373 of the 530 cases, nearly three-fourths of cases of vaping-related illness are men, two-thirds of people with the illness are between 18 and 34, and 16% are individuals under 18. 

In all cases, individuals reported vaping or using electronic cigarettes, the CDC data showed. 

“I think conversations have to take place in the home and classroom, at the school assembly, student to student, student government or special student committees,” Merkley said. 

“Kids listen to kids,” he added. 

News tip? Contact reporter Joe Siess: [email protected] or 541-473-3377.

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