Officials with the Oregon Health Authority recommended Gov. Kate Brown ban vaping products in the state for six months, following a second vaping-related death Thursday.
Brown said she has sought advice from the Oregon Department of Justice on legal remedies, including the possibility of a temporary ban on all vaping products. Brown called the death a tragedy and “absolutely unacceptable.”
The Oregon Health Authority’s recommendation Friday, one of six given to Brown, came after the governor sought advice from the agency. OHA’s other options ranged from asking federal authorities to take action on vaping to launching an educational campaign about the risks of using the cigarette alternative.
The Oregon Health Authority has, so far, identified five reports of severe lung injuries in Oregon that it’s linked to a series of vaping-related illness nationwide. All five individuals had vaped or used e-cigarettes and were hospitalized after experiencing respiratory issues resulting in shortness of breath, coughing or chest pain.
Two of the cases resulted in death, with the first fatality announced Sept. 3. The other three individuals are “recovering,” according to state health officer Dean Sidelinger.
Sidelinger said the most recent death followed the same pattern as past cases: an adult, who experienced severe respiratory injuries after vaping cannabis products purchased from a licensed retailer. The individual was in the hospital for several weeks before succumbing to their injuries, according to Sidelinger. The authority is not releasing the person’s gender, age or location.
At a press conference Thursday announcing the latest death, health officials were adamant: No one in Oregon should still be vaping.
“No level of vaping is safe,” Sidelinger said. “With these acute respiratory injuries and deaths, we do urge all individuals to stop vaping, whether that’s nicotine-based products, cannabis products or other products.”
State health officials have been working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to investigate what is behind the spike in vaping-related illnesses and deaths. More than 800 cases have been reported nationwide.
The CDC has changed its messaging around vape-related lung injuries. Instead of just recommending people refrain from vaping and e-cigarettes, it’s emphasizing they particularly refrain from products that contain THC.
Spurred by the rising numbers, a series of states took action this week to dissuade residents from picking up the products. On Tuesday, Massachusetts ordered a four-month ban on sales. The same day, California’s Department of Public Health urged all residents “to refrain from vaping, no matter the substance or source.” Washington Gov. Jay Inslee announced Friday that he would like that state’s health authority to ban flavored vaping cartridges at its next meeting, Oct. 9.
At least one Oregon legislator is considering going further than a temporary ban. Rep. Cheri Helt, R-Bend, said Thursday that she intends to introduce legislation during the 2020 session that would ban retail and online sales of all flavored e-cigarettes and vaping products. In the meantime, she said she supports a temporary ban on product sales.
“Oregon needs an immediate pause in sales and stronger, longer-term regulation of all vaping related products to save lives, prevent addiction and protect public health,” Helt said in a statement.
Oregon is now the third state with more than one vaping death, after California and Kansas. Officials now count at least 13 vaping deaths in the country.
With the root cause of these vaping-related illnesses still unknown, Sidelinger said it’s likely health officials are going to see “increased number of cases and, tragically, more deaths.”
Kristian Foden-Vencil contributed to this story.