Oregon lawmakers may ban online sales of vaping products in an effort to curb vaping and e-cigarette use among minors and youth.
House Bill 2261 would require a face-to-face purchase when customers buy vaping products to make it more difficult for people under 21 to obtain them. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Pam Marsh, D-Southern Jackson County, would close a loophole that allows underage Oregonians to illicitly purchase vaping products on the Internet, thereby circumventing the need to show identification to a store clerk. The House on Saturday advanced the measure with a 44-4 vote, sending it to the Senate.
“I got involved in this issue when high school students from my district contacted me and told me how easily their peers were getting access to these products online,” Marsh said in a statement. “We all know vaping is bad for kids. The nicotine in these devices is highly addictive and can negatively impact developing brains. Closing this loophole is important for the health of young Oregonians and has the added benefit of keeping business for licensed Oregon tobacco and vape retailers in the state.”
Public health officials and health care providers supported the bill, which passed through the House Health Care Committee.
Dr. Dean Sidelinger, state health officer and epidemiologist, urged lawmakers to back the bill to address a growing epidemic of youth vaping. In Oregon, e-cigarette use among 11th graders increased from 13% to 23% from 2017, to 2019, according to a state health survey.
“Addressing the youth vaping epidemic requires swift action,” Sidelinger said. “One component of reducing youth e-cigarette use is making it harder for youth to buy these products illegally.”
Urban and rural public health officials back the bill. In written testimony, Multnomah County Public Health Director Jessica Guernsey told lawmakers illicit sales “became a reality” in her family when her then-15-year-old son obtained vaping products online. “Even though I work in public health and know how prevalent and easy it is for young people to obtain these devices, when my son walked through how he was able to do this, I was shocked,” Guernsey said. “It was an instructive moment for me to say the least.”
The bill also allows Oregon to catch up to Facebook, which has ad policies that ban advertising vaping products. In that vein, Instagram has banned influencers from promoting vaping and tobacco products, said Nadia LeMay, tobacco prevention and education program coordinator with Crook County Health Department in central Oregon.
In 2017, Oregon lawmakers passed legislation that bans the online sales of cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products. They also raised the minimum age to purchase tobacco from 18 to 21.
Lawmakers considered a similar bill to ban online vaping sales in the 2020 session, which died.
In Washington state, online sales are allowed, but only to adults. The state’s regulations require vendors to verify the buyer’s name, birthdate and address through a third-party database. Buyers can only make online purchases through a credit or debit card in their name.
You can reach Ben Botkin at [email protected] or via Twitter @BenBotkin1.