Commissioners will vote March 5 to restrict youth access to e-cigs, vaping devices

March 2, 2015

Frequently Asked Questions

What is happening with e-cigarettes and vaping in Multnomah County?

On Thursday, March 5,  the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners will vote to restrict  the use of inhalant delivery systems (e-cigarettes, vape pens or e-hookahs). The vote will take place at the regular 9:30 a.m. Board meeting in the Multnomah Building, 501 S.E. Hawthorne, Portland, Ore. 97214. Public comment will be taken.

The ordinance:

  • Prohibits selling inhalant delivery systems to people under 18.
  • Prohibits minors from purchasing these devices.
  • Prohibits minors from using the devices.
  • Prohibits the use of inhalant delivery systems in workplaces where smoking is prohibited.

Visit the board meeting page of the county website on March 5 at 9:30 a.m. to stream the board meeting live.  

Why is the county involved?

E-cigs pose a potential health risk. As the Local Public Health Authority, Multnomah County is responsible for the health of the community. Currently, there are no rules around the manufacture, sale or use of e-cigarette devices or liquid. So the public does not know what is in these products nor the potential health effects.  

Aren’t e-cigs safer than smoking?

They are marketed as an alternative to traditional tobacco cigarettes, but there is little information about their safety. The health effects of the vapor on users and those around them is unknown.

In addition to nicotine, studies have detected harmful or potentially harmful chemicals including diethylene glycol, a toxic chemical found in antifreeze and formaldehyde . Depending on the device, harmful lead, cadmium and nickel can also be present.

How can kids get these?

Youth can legally buy and use these products in Oregon. Many products target kids with e-cigarette flavors including Bubble Gum, Gummi Bear and Captain Crunch.

  • Nicotine is a highly addictive drug that can harm a youth’s brain development.
  • Use has tripled among 11th graders in Oregon between 2011 and 2014.
  • One in 10 Multnomah County high school students reported they have used an e-cigarette

Younger children have also swallowed e-liquid. Calls to Poison Control Centers related to e-juice or liquid nicotine have risen nationally from one call a month in September 2010 to 215 calls in February 2014.

What actions have Multnomah County Commissioners taken so far?

On Feb. 12, the Board of Commissioners, acting as the Board of Health, adopted a policy to prohibit vaping and other inhalant delivery systems in any workplace where smoking is already prohibited. The order also bans sales to, and use and possession by, people under age 18.

Commissioners will take final action March 5 on the ordinance to implement the Board of Health order.

When will any new law take effect?

The new law would take effect 30 days after the final vote.

Where can I learn more?

Multnomah County Vital Signs: E-cigarettes and the Growing Culture of Vaping: Concern for Multnomah County Youth

You can watch the video or read the minutes of three Health Department briefings:

Nov. 13, 2014 Board briefing with  Dr. Jennifer Vines, Multnomah County Deputy Health Officer and Dr. James Pankow, Portland State University professor of chemistry and environmental engineering.

Nov. 25, 2014 briefing the Health Department describes best practices nationwide.

Dec. 18, 2014 briefing on the impact of these products on communities of color.