Multnomah County moves to ban e-cigarette sales and use by minors, and in workplaces

February 12, 2015

Health Department director Joanne Fuller (right) and Environmental Health director Jae Douglas at Thursday's board meeting.

The Multnomah County Board of Commissioners on Thursday took the first step toward prohibiting the sale, use and possession of e-cigarettes by minors, and barring vaping in the workplace.

In a 5-0 vote, commissioners, acting as the Board of Health, adopted a policy to prohibit vaping and other inhalant delivery systems in any place of employment 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. The new law could take effect 30 days after the final vote.

Chair Deborah Kafoury said that eight years ago, e-cigarettes were not even sold in the United States. Today, vaping is a common sight across the country.

“The complete lack of regulation and education about all these products that has made for a lot of confusion. Today, we will bring some clarity to this issue, ’’ Kafoury said.

Chair Kafoury at the Feb. 12 board meeting.

The board’s actions came after three briefings and four public hearings on the dramatic increase in vaping and, e-cigarette use. Use among Oregon’s 11th graders has tripled and one in 10 Multnomah County high school students has tried inhalant delivery systems the Health Department reports. Public health officials say the unregulated liquid can contain dangerous chemicals and nicotine, which is highly addictive and is shown to affect teen brains

“People should not vape where they can not smoke. If you are a kid you will not be allowed to buy or possess e-cigarettes. If you are a store, you will not sell them to youth,” Kafoury said.

Community organizations and health professionals have supported the proposed actions and asked the board to license retailers. Vape shop owners and employees have supported the ban on sales to minors but asked to be exempted from the county’s Smoke-free Workplace Law so their customers can continue to sample their products indoors.

Commissioner Jules Bailey said he didn’t understand why prohibiting use indoors would shut down vape shops.

Lobbyist for the Northwest Vapor Association Matt Minahan addresses the board during Thursday's board meeting.

Bailey said when he goes to the store for shampoo or can of soup, he doesn’t open it and see which one is best. “I make the purchase, try it and if I don’t like it, I go back and try something else. It’s a bit of a leap as to why this would shut down all vaping stores.’’

“This is not an anti-jobs bill...this is not a pro-tobacco bill,’’ said Commissioner Judy Shiprack. “What we’re doing what we’re doing is protecting the children of Multnomah County and providing education to promote public health. That is in our wheelhouse. That is what we do.’’

Members of the public can comment online at (submissions are closed).