Maybe you didn’t vote for state Rep. Cheri Helt of Bend. Maybe you are a Democrat and have trouble supporting a Republican.
But on Monday in the Legislature, Helt was being very effective testifying in support of two important draft bills likely to be introduced this coming session.
The first is essentially a ban on flavored vaping products. The text of the draft legislation was not posted on the House Interim Committee on Health Care’s website when it was being discussed. That is not a practice the Legislature should follow. It’s not acceptable. It’s a breach of transparency in government.
That issue aside, Oregon and the nation face a problem with vaping. Vaping products were released without approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, as Helt testified. They come in flavors such as Captain Crunch and Mountain Dew. Perhaps the people designing the flavors weren’t out to hook children on nicotine. Flavors like that sure help. Helt pointed out when teachers in the Bend-La Pine Schools were asked about designing schools, the top thing they brought forward was changing the design of bathrooms so teachers could smell when children were vaping.
There may be some overlap with this proposed bill and regulations being worked on by the federal government. Helt said the Oregon ban would be a more complete definition than what she understands the federal government is working on. Oregon should not wait. The state needs tough restrictions to help protect children.
The second bill would require veterinarians to report to a state database when they prescribe opioids to an individual’s pet. It’s not clear to us if the bill would also apply to other controlled substances. This draft legislation was also not posted on the committee’s website when it was discussed.
Helt was joined by Sgt. Kent Vander Kamp of the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office testifying about this bill. Vander Kamp was the first officer on the scene after Shantel Lynn Witt drove head on into Bend cyclist and dentist Marika Stone in 2017. Witt was impaired consuming about seven different pharmaceuticals that day, Vander Kamp said. Included among them was Xanax, a drug prescribed to her dog. Xanax is a controlled substance but not an opioid.
Requiring veterinarians to report when they prescribe and dispense opioids won’t bring a stop to people from abusing opioids in Oregon. It may help. Through Oregon’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program doctors and pharmacists can share information about controlled substances used by their patients. It’s a loophole in the law that veterinarians don’t participate. Helt is right to push to see it closed.