UPDATE: As crisis looms, Oregon officials propose vaping ban

Oregon State Capitol, governor’s office (Salem Reporter/file)

SALEM — The Oregon Health Authority is recommending that Gov. Kate Brown ban for six months the display and sale of all vaping products, both nicotine and cannabis based.

The recommendation is one of six related to curtailing use of vaping products across the state and comes after state officials, including the governor, urged consumers to voluntarily stop using vaping products.

Brown has asked the state Justice Department to review the options before she takes executive action. The governor sought the health agency’s recommendations following the announcement Thursday of the second Oregon death related to vaping.

State officials gave no indication when a ban might take effect, but Health Authority officials said such a ban should remain in place while federal agencies investigate vape-related illnesses.  

“The safety of this product has been in question for a long time,” Dr. Dean Sidelinger, state health officer, told reporters during a Sept. 26 press conference. “We know this product is not safe and have seen health effects from it with acute respiratory injuries and death. We do urge all individuals to stop vaping whether that’s nicotine-based products, cannabis products or other. People who haven’t vaped, shouldn’t start.”

The Health Authority’s recommendations included improving access to federally -approved methods to quit smoking. The agency also proposes providing eight weeks of free nicotine-replacement therapy “without barriers,” according to an agency statement.

The Health Authority also suggests that the state urge the FDA to regulate vaping products and establish a ban on internet sales of tobacco and online marketing of vaping products.

The agency also wants health care providers to continue reporting cases of acute respiratory injury related to vaping so the state can compile data and establish a better understanding its health effects.

Finally, the Health Authority recommended Brown create a workgroup of health professionals and government leaders to develop additional recommendations to address what the state now considers a crisis.

 “Our office will be working closely with DOJ, the 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,” the governor said in a statement.

State health officials have so far identified five cases of acute respiratory illness related to vaping both nicotine-based products and cannabis products. The state’s first death related to vaping was announced Sept. 3.

According to Sidelinger, the five patients who were hospitalized reported shortness of breath and trouble breathing, which progressed. More than 800 cases of vaping-related illness have been reported across the nation. There have been a dozen deaths reported in several states.

“The latest individual who died, like the other case, was an adult, and did report using cannabis products,” said Sidelinger, who couldn’t provide more detailed information about the victim.

Sidelinger said that the five people being treated had used licensed cannabis products. The Health Authority expects more cases to be reported.

Dr. Jennifer Vines, Multnomah County deputy health officer, said her county sent a report to several hundred Portland-area health care providers echoing Sidelinger’s warning. The county also urged people to quit vaping and asked health care providers to watch for more cases.

The warning came days after Multnomah County commissioners said they would work with state and federal officials to ban the sale of flavored nicotine products.