By Adam Duvernay

The (Eugene) Register-Guard

Oregon reports 1 more vaping-related illness — Health officials say one more Oregonian has a vaping-related severe lung illness, raising Oregon’s toll to nine victims, two of whom have died. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says at least 1,080 people across the country have been struck with lung illnesses connected to vaping and at least 18 have died. Officials do not know what is causing the illness. Medical tests have pointed to oils lodged in victims’ lungs, while others have pointed to lung reactions typical of exposure to toxic chemicals. Of Oregon’s nine victims, at least five used products they bought at legal marijuana retail stores.

School districts sue Juul— Schools across the country are grappling with an epidemic of vaping among their students, with adolescents concealing vapes in their sweatshirt sleeves, sneaking puffs in school bathrooms and selling vapes — illegal for minors — in the hallways of high schools. Now, four school districts are suing the e-cigarette company Juul, saying it targeted teenagers in marketing and spurred the epidemic that has sapped schools and educators of time and resources as they reckon with how to help students hooked on the popular product. “We’re tired of companies that just want to make money at children’s expense,” said Whitney Meissner, superintendent of La Conner School District north of Seattle, which filed suit Monday. The lawsuits from Olathe Public Schools in Kansas, Three Village Central School District in New York, Francis Howell School District in Missouri and La Conner come as officials struggle to contain an outbreak of mysterious illnesses and deaths linked to vaping — although most cases involved patients who vaped THC, the active ingredient in marijuana. Juul did not respond to a request for comment on the lawsuits, but in the past it has defended its products by saying they were designed to help adult smokers quit. The company also has shut down social media accounts and stopped sales of flavored products to retail outlets in an effort to curb teens’ use.

Los Angeles could ban all vaping devices — A Los Angeles city councilman has proposed banning all e-cigarettes and vaping devices in the city — a measure that would be one of the most extreme steps yet to curb an outbreak of lung illnesses linked to vaping. The proposal, introduced at Tuesday’s City Council meeting, would prohibit the sale of e-cigarette and vaping devices until they are deemed safe by the Food and Drug Administration. Since the FDA has not approved any such devices, the law would essentially ban all of them. San Francisco passed a similar law earlier this year.

— Bulletin wire reports

The toll of Oregonians sickened by vaping-related lung damage is rising as the governor directed state agencies last week to prepare for a temporary ban on items not strongly linked to the national crisis, focusing her first action on cutting how many kids use vapes.

By the end of the week, any vapes that don’t taste like tobacco, menthol or marijuana might be illegal to sell in Oregon for the next six months. If the Oregon Liquor Control Commission approves the ban, it will be in force immediately under still unwritten state guidelines, according to OLCC spokesman Mark Pettinger.

Compliance checks at stores where flavored e-cigarette liquid is sold could start this weekend if it’s approved, Pettinger said. Many of those stores will be forced to take from their shelves the largest and most valuable part of their inventories.

The ban targets flavored items that are not specifically linked by health officials to the more than 1,000 sicknesses and 18 deaths, two of them in Oregon. The governor’s office instead took one prevention option presented by the Oregon Health Authority — ban the sale of all vaping products — and whittled it down to just flavored items because other states have done that and because it might limit teen usage.

Teens are vaping — a lot.

Gov. Kate Brown’s executive action cites a 10% rise in reported e-cigarette youth in Oregon 11th graders between 2017 and 2019.

“By keeping potentially unsafe products off of store shelves and out of the hands of Oregon’s children and youth, we prevent exposing more people to potentially dangerous chemical compounds, and help lessen the chance of further tragedy,” Brown said in a news release.

That release said the “best-available evidence from state and federal public health experts” indicates ingredients in flavored vaping products and additives have been found in cases of vaping-related lung injury and death. A spokesman for the governor in an email said the plan also was informed by advice from the Oregon Health Authority about what policies would be best for overall public health.

“The safest course of action is still not to vape until we know more about what is causing these vaping lung injuries,” governor’s office spokesman Charles Boyle said, repeating warnings from both federal and state health officials monitoring the crisis.

Vape vendors don’t generally promote their products as safe — just safer than cigarettes

“Smoking a cigarette is a 1930s car with no safety glass and no seat belt,” Oregon Vape Society Owner Eric Pinnell said. “Vaping is a 1960s car with a lap belt and safety glass.”

Pinnell says 70% of what he sells at his Springfield shop is e-cigarette liquid and about 0.5% of that is tobacco flavored.

“I’ll be filing for bankruptcy,” Pinnell said.

Business this week hasn’t changed at Oregon Vape Society or back in Eugene at Urban Vapors, where co-owner Annie Roes is angry. Like Pinnell, Roes said Urban Vapors wouldn’t survive the ban. She employs 10 people at two Eugene locations.

“We are in lockdown, fight-it-out mode,” Roes said.