PORTLAND, Ore — Oregon's six-month ban on all flavored vape products began Tuesday, but those in charge of enforcing it admit it will be a challenge to do so.
The ban covers all flavored vaping products that contain nicotine or THC and includes online and retail sales.
In the week leading up to the ban and the night before, many vape shops across the area were filled with customers stocking up and spending hundreds of dollars on flavored juices.
By Tuesday, a KGW crew found a very different scene after visiting half a dozen shops and convenience stores in the Portland-Metro area.
Shelves were bare; all that remained were tobacco flavored e-liquids. Flavored vape products were gone from the stores, as were customers looking to buy them.
Each store we stopped at appeared to be following the law by removing the products and not advertising them. Vape shops we visited in Portland, Beaverton and Aloha are still selling devices and other products, but employees at two of the stores were concerned over whether they could keep their doors open.
A vape shop manager in Beaverton told KGW flavored vaping products were 80- to 90-percent of their business and they didn't think they could stay open. Others told us they will stay in business because they have a loyal following.
The ban comes after a nationwide outbreak of severe lung disease linked to vaping. As of Tuesday, Oregon Health Authority (OHA) says there are 11 reported cases in Oregon, and two deaths.
Stores found to be in violation of the ban will first get a warning letter. If they continue to violate the order, they could face fines of up to $500 per day per violation.
Oregon Liquor and Control Commission (OLCC) is in charge of enforcing anything related to THC while OHA is enforcing flavored products with nicotine, CBD and other non-THC vape products.
While OHA doesn't regulate vape shops, they are working with county public health departments around the state to try to get into every store that sells flavored vape products and educate store owners and employees. They're calling it a "soft approach" and acknowledge it will take a while.
Vape shops can technically have flavored vape products on display during the ban. There is not a clause in the rules stating shops cannot display products. However, OHA says if flavored vape products are advertised in a way that suggest they're still for sale, the store could be in trouble.
As for licensed marijuana retailers, OLCC says they must take flavored THC vaping products off their shelves. Spokesman Mark Pettinger says those products must be segregated and stored separately from other products. Stores can hold on to it for the full six months, return it to processors or wholesalers, or destroy it.
In addition to fines, licensed dispensaries face the risk of a suspended or revoked license if they violate the ban.
If you find a store to be in violation of this ban you can file a complaint online.
As of October 11, the CDC reports there are about 1,300 cases of lung injury linked to vaping and 26 deaths confirmed. Most people are reporting using THC-containing products. The CDC says the latest national and state data suggests products with THC, especially those bought off the street or from illicit dealers, are linked to most of the cases and play a "major role" in this outbreak.
Some people are reporting only vaping nicotine, while many sick patients say they vape both THC and nicotine.
"Therefore, the possibility that nicotine-containing products play a role in this outbreak cannot be excluded," the CDC said in an Oct. 11 report.
Public health officials recommend Americans stop using vaping products with THC and nicotine.