Multnomah County is holding a series of public hearings to discuss a possible ban on flavored vaping and tobacco products. The first hearing is scheduled for county headquarters in Portland Tuesday.

At a recent informational hearing, Multnomah County’s health officer Dr. Jennifer Vines told commissioners that adding flavor to tobacco, whether in a vape pen or a cigarette, is specifically aimed at giving youth a starter product.

A sign at Multnomah County warns people about the dangers of flavored tobacco.

A sign at Multnomah County warns people about the dangers of flavored tobacco.

Kristian Foden-Vencil/OPB

To illustrate her point, she held up two shiny packages she’d just bought from a nearby convenience store.

“You can see they look alike. They’re bright blue. One was only 99 cents, that’s three, blueberry flavored small cigars, or cigarillos. More expensive is the package of M&Ms in the candy section,” said Vines.

County health officials told commissioners they’ve been working to reduce the use of e-cigarettes for years. And that the proposed ban is not a knee-jerk reaction to the recent widespread vaping-related illnesses.

EVALI, or e-cigarette or vaping product use associated lung injury,’ has now injured more than 2,000 Americans and killed 39, including two in Oregon.

Vaping companies say the illness does not appear to be linked to flavors, so the ban makes little sense.

The county will hold a second public hearing in Gresham, 600 NE 8th St., on Tuesday, Dec. 3 at 4:30 p.m.