PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – A number of Washington County businesses are celebrating Wednesday after an injunction was filed to end the county’s ban on flavored vaping products, allowing them to put the products back on the shelves.
The ban was put in place by the county last year and confirmed by voters with more than 75% support this spring. The county ordinance prohibits flavored vaping products, including tobacco, vaporized nicotine, marijuana and CBD.
One small business told KOIN 6 that flavored vaping is almost all it sells, to the point that it considered closing because revenue wasn’t coming in.
This week marks some of the first product orders in weeks for Serenity Vapor Lounge after a Washington County ordinance banned flavored vaping products, leaving them to sell only a limited amount of tobacco-flavored vapors.
“That’s the majority of our business, over 80%,” said Jordan Schwartz, owner of Serenity Vapor Lounge. “Unfortunately, we have three locations, all of which are in Washington County.”
Serenity Vapor, along with King’s Hookah Lounge and Torched Illusions, teamed up to file a lawsuit earlier in 2022 against the ordinance, and this week an injunction was signed ending that ban.
“They were losing thousands of dollars a day in sales to adults 21 and older,” said Tony Aiello, Jr., the attorney representing them through Tyler Smith and Associates. “They faced the inevitability of laying off employees, closing sites, breaking leases.”
This is good news for some customers visiting the Tigard store. Jeremy Blondke says flavored vapes helped him quit using cigarettes when tools like the gum and the patch weren’t working.
“I would use the tobacco flavored ones, but that would be really disappointing when I’m used to having different flavors that I like,” Blondke said. “That’s what made it easier to transition from cigarettes to these, that’s an added bonus. It tastes better, not everything is disgusting.
Following the lawsuit, Washington County Public Health said the county had already asked the court to dismiss the complaint and they were awaiting the court’s decision. They also told KOIN 6 that the county has yet to begin active enforcement of the ordinance.
“Washington County has not begun active enforcement of the ordinance, so there is no practical effect of the preliminary injunction. The county has already asked the court to dismiss the plaintiff’s original complaint and we are awaiting the court’s decision. In the meantime, retailers in Washington County can sell tobacco products at retail,” said Mary Sawyers of Washington County Public Health.
Schwartz hopes this will inspire local leaders to rethink the ordinance and work with small business owners when making decisions.
“Instead of working against the steam industry, work with us,” Schwartz said. “We have a lot of good ideas and would like to be invited to some of the working groups.
KOIN 6 asked Washington County to clarify when it planned to enforce the ordinance and whether companies knew it was not enforced, but there was no response. Schwartz says it was unclear whether the county would enforce it or not, but employees didn’t feel comfortable keeping the products out during the order.