Oregon issues flavored tobacco ban

Amy Kang, Staff Writer

As of the end of January, the new tobacco ban in Washington County has been put on hold. Ordinance 878, the first flavored tobacco ban in Oregon, was implemented on Jan. 1, 2022, prohibiting the retail sale of flavored tobacco products and synthetic nicotine. This included vape pens (e-cigarettes), menthol cigarettes and more. 

The ban was passed back in November, 2021 and went into effect in December, though retailers had until Jan. 1, 2022 to discard all their products. According to a statement from Washington County Chair Kathryn Harrington, the ban was intended to improve the health of the public, especially the youth, by preventing addiction to nicotine. 

Tobacco remains the number one cause of preventable death. Flavors mask the natural harshness of tobacco, making it easier to continue to use. We are proud to be the first county in Oregon to protect our community members from the harms of flavored tobacco with Ordinance 878,” Gwyn Ashcom, the Washington County tobacco prevention coordinator, explained.

Despite this concern, many were against the ban. According to OPB, Commissioner Jerry Willey voted against the ban. He claimed that the ban would negatively impact local stores that provided vape products. Others also argued that the ban will not strongly affect whether children and teenagers will get a hold of the banned products.

In a KGW article, vape shop owner Christopher Ferreira said that “What [the county board is] doing is only banning the sale of this product, so the children that they are trying to save are still going to get this product.”

Plaid Pantry President Jonathan Polonsky further explained that the ban, which only applies to Washington County, would be useless since “a prohibition on a county is not going to work. [Customers] can get on their bike or walk across the street and get [what they want] in Multnomah County.”

In fact, so many people in the community were against Ordinance 878 that a petition was created to address rescinding the ban. The petition required 9,939 signatures, and in less than a month since the ban was enforced, Ordinance 878 was halted with over 10,000 signatures. 

A referendum, a direct vote from general electorates rather than representatives, will be placed on the May 17 ballot. Voters will be able to decide whether the ban should be reinstated or not. As of now, stores are allowed to sell flavored tobacco and vaping products again.