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Citing two deaths and growing health concerns, county commissioners and governor urge residents not to use e-cigarettes.

PMG FILE PHOTO - County health officials are urging residents to immediately stop using all e-cigarettes amid what they call a national health crisis tied to vaping.Citing a "health crisis," linked to vaping, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown and Multnomah County Health officials are urging residents to stop using e-cigarette devices, and looking into a possible ban on vaping.

A health advisory was issued by the county Tuesday, Sept. 24. As of Friday, Sept. 27, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are reporting 805 lung injury cases reported from 46 states and one U.S. territory. Twelve deaths have been confirmed in 10 states.

By Thursday, Gov. Brown issued a similar warning, noting two Oregonians have now died from lung complications related to the use of vaping devices.

"The Oregon Health Authority has issued a public health warning urging Oregonians to cease the use of vaping products until we have determined what is causing this illness," Brown said in a statement released Thursday afternoon. "I am also requesting that the Department of Justice advise my office on what legal options are available to the state, up to and including the temporary ban of all vaping products."

The Multnomah County Board of Commissioners, in its capacity as the Board of Health, said it will work with the state and federal government to ban the sale of flavored nicotine products, while warning about the potential danger associated with vaping and urging everyone to immediately cease using the products.

In the most significant measure, the county board says it wants to see a proposal from the Multnomah County Health Department, to prohibit the sale of all flavored tobacco products within the county.

In addition to multiple cases of illness, county health officials say the growing trend of teen e-cigarette use also is part of the health crisis.

"Kids are attracted to the flavors of vaping liquids — as they are attracted to flavored cigarillos and menthol cigarettes — and it puts them at risk of disease and addiction," a news release states. "The Food and Drug Administration has proposed pulling flavored e-cigarettes and nicotine pods from the market. The Multnomah County Board of Health calls on the agency to act swiftly."

Data from an Oregon Healthy Teens Survey showed that e-cigarette use among 11th-graders jumped from one in 25 in 2013, to nearly one in six by 2015. Today, those rates could be higher.PMG FILE PHOTO - Patricia Charles-Heathers, director of the Multnomah County Health Department, addresses concern over lung illness and other health issues tied to e-cigarettes during a press conference Sept. 4.

Lawmakers take lead

Earlier this year, federal lawmakers, including Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley of Oregon, called for an investigation into marketing practices of companies like Juul Labs Inc., which sells fruit-flavored nicotine pods and e-cigarettes that some say were targeted toward teens. In further efforts to curb e-cigarette use among underage users, Wyden announced legislation that would tax e-cigarettes at the same rate as traditional cigarettes.

Sharing the concerns about underage use, Juul — one of the most popular e-cigarette manufacturers — said it pulled its non-tobacco flavored products from retail shelves, enhanced its online age-verification system, pushed for better retailer compliance and shut down its Facebook and Instagram accounts. A few months later, amid growing reports of illness and death from vaping, the company's CEO stepped down and the company urged non-nicotine users not to use its products. Recent reports indicate the company has not opposed efforts to pull its products from retail shelves altogether.

"Juul Labs Inc. exists to help adult smokers switch from combustible cigarettes, which remain the leading cause of preventable death around the world," Ted Kwong, a Juul Labs spokesperson, said in a statement on behalf of the company back in July. "We do not want non-nicotine users to buy Juul products, and are committed to preventing underage access to our products. We strongly support raising the national minimum purchasing age for all tobacco and vapor products to 21, and have implemented a comprehensive action plan to combat underage access, appeal, and use of Juul products."

Anyone ready to quit tobacco is encouraged to contact their primary care provider or the Oregon Tobacco Quit Line at 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669) or online at quitnow.net/oregon.


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