Last year, I was waiting for a flight when someone activated a device that released something that looked like smoke and had a strong scent. It was clear at the time that this was not a traditional cigarette, but kids, pregnant women and non-smokers, like myself, were forced to breathe in its vapor.

I was appalled and thought that something needed to be done. Thus, I have submitted House Bill 4115 to stop the victimization of innocent bystanders and to ban the sale of these devices to minors.

My father died of lung cancer, so I have seen the effects of tobacco smoking first-hand. It took many years to fully understand the tragic consequences of tobacco products and their secondhand effects on non-users.

While some argue that science is undecided on “vaping”, one thing is clear: the majority of these products contain nicotine. Nicotine alone is highly addictive and has health consequences such as raised blood pressure, heart rate and glucose levels. It is known to have adverse effects on brain and lung development in children, and increases the risk of birth defects when pregnant women are exposed in the early stages of pregnancy.

While we wait for the science to become mainstream on the effects of the other chemicals in e-cigarettes, people who wouldn’t otherwise smoke cigarettes may get addicted to vaping and could suffer the consequences years later when it is too late undo the damage.

Preventing teen smoking, which is essential to prevent addiction to nicotine in later life, is complex. Making sales to them unlawful is only one aspect; another is the reduction of modeling behavior by adults. Banning e-cigarette smoking in no-smoking areas will help reduce the incidence of youth smoking and reduce the number of new nicotine addicts.

On Feb. 5, HB 4115 was heard in the Human Services Committee. The committee heard testimony for two hours, most of which was dominated by vapor business owners or workers, who supported the ban on sales to minors but were against banning use in places where tobacco smoking is not allowed. An objection that was reiterated throughout their testimony regarded the ban on allowing people to test these products within a vapor shop. As non-smokers/non-vapers are unlikely to be inside a vapor store, I am working on an amendment to address that concern.

If my bill passes, adults can still use e-cigarettes, they just can’t use them in places that expose the 3 million Oregonians who don’t use any type of cigarette (electronic or otherwise) to hazardous vapors in public places.

Many other lawmakers have had experiences like mine, coming upon someone smoking an e-cigarette in a no-smoking area. Nearly all were as appalled as I was.

Banning e-cigarettes in no-smoking places is not a new concept in Oregon. Benton, Clatsop, Deschutes, Hood River and Umatilla counties have already passed smoke-free policies that explicitly include e-cigarettes. These laws protect residents and provide a unified law, which is easy for residents and businesses to follow.

The proposal to add vaping to the Indoor Clean Air Act is supported by the Building Owners and Managers Association, the Association of Oregon Community Mental Health Programs, the Association of Oregon Counties, and the Coalition of Local Health Officials.

Experts in smoking prevention know that there are many aspects of preventing teen addiction to nicotine. This bill covers only two, but it is a good beginning.

The longer we wait to adopt this law, the more teen addicts there will be and the more child, teen and adult victims there will be of second hand e-cigarette smoke.

State Rep. Phil Barnhart, a Eugene Democrat, serves Oregon’s 11th House District that includes Central Lane and Linn counties. His email is This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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