Washington County bans flavored nicotine vapes

Before the pandemic, health officials say teen vaping was the public health issue everyone should have been working to fight.

In 2019, about 26% of 11th-graders and 15% of 8th-graders reported using some type of flavored nicotine. Now, they’re starting again.

Gwyn Ashcom, the tobacco prevention specialist for Washington County Public Health, said while they’ve made great strides preventing kids from using combustible tobacco, vaping flipped the switch and forced them to play catch up.

“When vape came on the market, that’s when we saw the numbers skyrocket,” Ashcom told KOIN 6 News. “We saw an increase of over 10% of use in just a matter of a couple years.”

In kids nicotine use affects memory, listening and concentration, she said, and it primes them for more addictive behavior in the future.

Tuesday, the Washington County Board of Commissioners voted 3-2 to in favor of a total ban on flavored nicotine and tobacco products, becoming the first county in the state of Oregon to issue an all-encompassing ban. The ordinance also bans any sales or promotions on tobacco or nicotine products.

The ban takes effect December 2, 2021, but won’t be enforced until January 1, 2022.

Officials believe other locations will follow.

Ashcom said they’ve been working on this type of legislation for years. This, she said, is the right time.

Washington County Board of Commissioners Chair Kathryn Harrington said it’s the board’s duty to pass this ordinance to protect kids. She said store owners and retailers have been great about not selling to kids but the problem has grown — and now is the time to do something.

“Nonetheless there have been adults who have been giving these products to young people, so like it or not we need to take more drastic steps,” Harrington told KOIN 6 News.

Other cities that have enacted similar bans reported a drop up to 10% in use of these type of products among their youth, Ashcom said.

Emma Jerome/KOIN