Flavored nicotine product sales banned in Oregon county

December 16, 2022 GMT

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Sales of flavored nicotine products will be prohibited in Oregon’s most populous county starting in 2024.

The unanimous vote by Multnomah County commissioners Thursday caps a multiyear effort to make a dent in youth vaping and health disparities, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported.

“This is going to save people’s lives,” County Chair Deborah Kafoury said shortly before the vote.

The county’s effort toward banning flavored tobacco and nicotine products ramped up in 2019 amid a national vaping scare. Cases of severe lung disease had been linked to illicit cannabis vape products. Work on the county’s ban was slowed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Concerns about a youth vaping epidemic have driven efforts to bar nicotine products with flavors that appear intended to appeal to children. Electronic cigarette use among 11th-grade Oregonians rose from 5% to 23% from 2013 to 2019, according to state estimates. The number dropped to an estimated 12% in 2020.

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Starting Jan. 1, 2024, Multnomah County retailers will be prohibited from selling cigarettes, vape products, chewing tobacco or synthetic nicotine products that have any flavor besides tobacco, including menthol cigarettes.

To enforce the ban, county health officials will use the existing tobacco retailer licensing system, which allows officials to fine, suspend or revoke retail licenses for violations.

The county is the second in Oregon to vote to ban flavored nicotine products, following Washington County’s ordinance passed last year. That ban hasn’t gone into effect, however. Convenience store chain Plaid Pantry’s CEO gathered enough signatures to put the ordinance on the ballot and while voters approved it, it was tossed in circuit court by a judge who ruled the county didn’t have such sweeping authority.

Washington County has appealed. Multnomah County commissioners concluded that ruling applied only to that county’s ban, spokesperson Julie Sullivan-Springhetti said.

“Obviously, different courts have different options,” Sullivan-Springhetti said, contrasting the Washington County judge’s ruling with a U.S. Supreme Court ruling this week allowing a statewide ban to stand in California. “That’s where the county came down.”

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Plaid Pantry CEO Jonathan Polonsky said he may challenge the Multnomah County ban, depending on the outcome of Washington County’s appeal and whether the Legislature takes independent action on flavored nicotine products.

“We’ll obviously comply when and if it is enacted,” Polonsky said of the ordinance. But, “we’re disappointed.”

As of Oct. 1, nearly 90 local governments have banned flavored nicotine and tobacco products entirely, according to the American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation, with 71 in California and the rest in Colorado, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana and New York. More than 150 others have laws on the books restricting the products’ sales in some manner, according to the foundation.