- Associated Press - Monday, May 11, 2015

SALEM, Ore. (AP) - Oregon Senators advanced a measure Monday banning the sale of electronic cigarettes to minors and requiring the inhalant devices be controlled like tobacco products, joining a vast movement of other states pursuing stricter regulations around “vaping.”

“We know that that nicotine impacts brain development and is highly addictive. And yet young people are targeted through advertisements which promote kid-friendly flavors and flashy packaging. These products are widely accessible to youths,” said bill sponsor Sen. Elizabeth Steiner Hayward, a Beaverton Democrat.

The bill would bar the sale of e-cigarettes to minors and prohibit their use in bars, workplaces and other public spaces where cigarettes are forbidden. Oregonians under the age of 18 would not be able to purchase e-cigarettes, the same age restriction as for tobacco products.

Teen smoking hit a record low last year but the popularity of e-cigarettes among youths has shot up. A report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in April found the number of high school students who tried inhalant devices tripled in one year.

The legislation also requires cigarette products be sold in child-resistant safety packaging and specifies e-cigarettes can’t be used to smoke marijuana in public spaces or workplaces.

Supporters say the bill is necessary because Oregon is one of a handful of states that hasn’t already banned selling e-cigarettes to minors. According to the National Conference on State Legislatures, 42 other states have passed similar measures.

E-cigarettes are battery-powered devices that produce an odorless vapor that typically contains nicotine and flavorings. They’re often seen as a safer alternative for regular smokers who can’t or don’t want to quit, but scientists are still deciding how harmful they are.

The Food and Drug Administration has proposed banning sales to minors and requiring health warning labels, as well as approving new products, but there isn’t a timetable for the final rules on e-cigarettes.

Some critics opposed giving the Oregon Health Authority the ability to fine violators. Under the bill, fines collected would be sent to the health authority’s Tobacco Use Reduction Account, which pays for programs educating the public about the risks of tobacco.

Sen. Alan Olsen, a Republican from Canby, argued those with the authority to impose fines shouldn’t receive the money from those fines.

“My concern is that we allow the Oregon Health Authority to be the judge, jury and collector of all fines. That gives them an incentive to be extremely aggressive, and I would be much more comfortable if we put the money back into the general fund,” Olsen said.

The bill passed 22-8 and heads back to the House.


HB 2546

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