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Multnomah County to restrict use of inhalant devices

OUTLOOK PHOTO: KATY SWORD - Some who testified at the March 5 county commissioners meeting brought their kids to make a point of their support of vaping while restricting youth access.The Multnomah County Board of Commissioners passed an ordinance on Thursday morning that essentially aligns regulation for "vapes" and electronic cigarettes with that of traditional cigarettes — but did not include an exemption allowing sampling in vape shops, as many had asked for.

The ordinance restricts minor access to the inhalant devices as well as restricts use within shops that sell the devices and accompanying nicotine liquid.

It will go into effect in 30 days.

The regulation has been widely protested — including by a small group from Save the Vape Shops that gathered outside the building during the Wednesday, March 5, public hearing. Sixteen people initially signed up to comment, although more continued to sign up throughout the hearing.

The majority of concerns were similar to the Feb. 12 hearing. Vape shop owners, employees, vape liquid manufacturers and users all asked for an exemption for shops. As written, the ordinance does not allow sampling in businesses, but users argue this will kill businesses. The Multnomah County Vape Association represents 33 businesses, and argued not including the exemption would impact sales, but also lead to trouble demonstrating vape use for customers, and testing eLiquids in the environment.

Others testified to the “life saving” opportunity presented with vaping, which could allow users to taper down their nicotine use and eventually quit.

Jason Gregg, co-founder of Cloud 9 Vapor, said he wanted to be “real” with the board.

“My constituents, which are vape shop owners, need me to continue to produce high-quality product to continue to fight the war against the largest series killer in the planet,” Gregg said. “That is big tobacco. We need to continue to be able to innovate products to get 40-year smokers off tobacco products.”OUTLOOK PHOTO: KATY SWORD - Many protestors gathered outside the building during the Board of Commissioners meeting asking for an exempton for vape shops.

President of Multnomah County Vape Association Paul Bates said they were only asking for a few sentences.

“We also support the ban of sales to minors. We also support the ban on vaping in public, but adding these few sentences to exempt the vape shops specifically prevents the unintended consequences of this ordinance,” Bates said. There was only one person who testified against the exemption and in support of the entire ordinance, citing that allowing sampling is allowing access to minors. Mel Rader, with Upstream Public Health, said his biggest concern is the clear history of children starting with e-cigarettes and moving to cigarettes.

Although the ordinance passed unanimously, Commissioner Jules Bailey said he understood the public’s opposition.

“I understand you guys, (local vape shops), are not the bad guys here,” Bailey said. “If it were up to me, I think a limited exception for sampling non-nicotine based (e-liquid) may make sense.”

Commissioner Loretta Smith was concerned with the “cool factor” associated with vaping.

“Millions of dollars are being put into advertising for e-cigarettes,” Smith said. “It is becoming a gateway drug to cigarettes.”

Chair Deborah Kafoury said she’s continuously concerned with the lack of education in the community about e-cigarettes and vape products. OUTLOOK PHOTO: KATY SWORD - The March 5 hearing concerning a vaping ordinance was packed full. Testimony lasted for nearly two hours.

“Even yesterday as I was talking with a constant about e-cigarettes, I was greeted by confusion, disbelief and concern,” Kafoury said. “That’s why we are considering taking action.”

The Oregon House of Representatives passed a similar bill last week that will go before the Senate later this month. Kafoury said while the state may take action before the county can sort out enforcement of the ordinance, it was still important to take action.

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