Oregon’s Court of Appeals on Thursday put a halt to the state’s ban on flavored vaping products, two days after it took effect.
The move to halt the ban was led by Jason Weber who, along with his wife Elizabeth Amber Weber, owns two vape stores in Roseburg. Attorneys filed the appeal late Wednesday afternoon and got word of the decision Thursday.
“It was a complete legal overreach,” Jason Weber said of the ban. “It’s a huge win for us. We were all about to go out of business.”
In asking for the stay the Webers and the Vapor Technology Association, an industry trade group, argued that numerous Oregon businesses and residents would “suffer severe and irreparable harm” from the ban, “before the rule can be subjected to full judicial review.”
The temporary stay issued Thursday apparently only applies to tobacco-based vaping products, sold under the oversight of the Oregon Health Authority. It leaves the ban in place on marijuana vaping products regulated by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission.
Gov. Kate Brown on Oct. 4 ordered a six-month ban on flavored vape products in Oregon in response to a spread of vaping-related illnesses across the nation. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that there have been nearly 1,500 illnesses and 33 deaths nationwide. Oregon has reported nine illnesses and two deaths.
“The court’s decision to enter a temporary stay today is unfortunate due to the ongoing public health threat posed by vaping-related illness,” the governor’s press secretary, Charles Boyle, said in a statement Thursday. Boyle said that absent federal regulation, Brown will work with public health organizations, state agencies and the Legislature to find a solution to vaping illnesses.
However, Jason Weber has long argued that the move to restrict flavored vaping products is misguided and will do more harm than good. Vaping should not be considered a public health concern like cigarettes, Weber said. Weber said he was a cigarette smoker for 14 years and when he wanted to quit eight years ago, vaping was the only thing that worked.
“It’s proven that vaping is the most successful thing to help adults quit smoking,” Weber told The News-Review earlier this year. “Why would they come attack us for such a little amount when we’re the best chance of making smoking not the leading preventable cause of death? My job is to help people stop smoking.”
He also points to dire tobacco smoking statistics in Douglas County to back up his support of flavored vaping products. The Oregon Health Association reports that 31.5% of adults in Douglas County are traditional smokers, for example, placing it in the top third of Oregon counties for percentage of smokers. Between 2013 and 2016, Douglas County had over 199 preventable deaths attributed to tobacco-related diseases.
In the legal appeal, the Webers argue that if Brown’s order remained in place it would “force the permanent closure of their businesses within the next two weeks.”
Their court challenge argued that Oregon regulators lack the legal standing to enforce the governor’s ban. They also argued that it would destroy Oregon’s vaping industry and prompt vapers into the black market where health risks are greater.
Elizabeth Weber, in her declaration to the Appeals Court, said that the ban would force the couple to lay off seven employees and send the Webers into “economic ruin.”
Following the court decision, Jason Weber said the couple had been given a reprieve.
“I’m so glad we can put our flavors back,” Weber said Thursday. “This is amazing. It means everything to us.”
The Oregon Health Authority put out a statement in response to the temporary stay that read in part: “OHA continues to investigate vaping-associated lung injuries and continues to urge all Oregonians who use vaping products to stop vaping immediately and take advantage of cessation resources.”
Tony Abboud, the executive director of the Vapor Technology Association, also put out a statement.
“We are very pleased with the Oregon Court of Appeals decision which preserves the ability of hundreds of small businesses to remain open and continue to serve their adult customers. ... Bans don’t work; they never have.”