Portland-area convenience stores are in no hurry to comply with Oregon Gov. Kate Brown's impending ban on flavored vaping products.
On Oct. 4, Brown issued an executive order that bans the sale of flavored vape pods and additives, effective later this month. Brown's decision comes in the wake of two Oregon deaths linked to vaping.
But she hasn't said what the consequences will be for tobacco retailers who don't comply—and hasn't yet dedicated any state resources to enforcement.
Oregon has no agency overseeing tobacco, leaving enforcement of the vape ban to counties. The Multnomah County Health Department tells WW it has no plans to increase staffing or inspections of tobacco retailers, although it will update them with emails (the department conducts onsite inspections once a year).
The governor's office says that the Oregon Health Authority will formulate the nicotine product rules.
"OHA will develop rules for enforcement of the temporary ban, and they will then work in partnership with local public health authorities to implement enforcement," says Charles Boyle, spokesman for the governor.
One of the state's largest convenience store chains tells WW his stores will comply with the ban—reluctantly.
Jonathan Polonsky, president and CEO of Plaid Pantry, says his 105 Oregon locations stopped selling fruit-flavored vapes a year ago, but will now have to pull even more vapes off shelves: flavors like mint and tobacco. He says it's unfair that regulators and consumers are "conflating this health issue, which by all accounts is absolutely related to THC vapor products, with a generic vaping issue. There shouldn't be linkage."
Polonsky tells WW discontinuing vape sales will take a toll on his business. "I can quantify how many dollars of mint Juul I will not sell, but what is squishier is the market basket, [meaning] what else would that customer buy?" he says. "It becomes more challenging to put a number on it."
So far, stores aren't pulling products from shelves.
In the weekend following the ban, WW visited five convenience stores that sell vaping products. They were all fully stocked with flavored vape pods like Juul, Alto and Vuse.
Meanwhile, cannabis dispensaries don't have to remove flavored products until the Oregon Liquor Control Commission finalizes the rules of the ban later this month. But they appear far more compliant: Three of five dispensaries WW visited this weekend had already removed flavored vaping pods.
Kaitlyn Scerini, a budtender at Portland Extracts, says one customer came in to buy extra cartridges: "He's either planning on cashing out in the black market, or he's stocking up for himself."
Here's a look at what remained on shelves after the ban was announced.
The following merchandise was available in Portland stores on Oct. 6.
Henry’s Market: Vape pods from Juul.
Sunny’s Mini Mart: Vape pods from Juul and Vuse.
Plaid Pantry on Southeast Division: Vape pods from Alto and Juul.
LB Market: Vape pods from Juul and Flint Vapor.
Speedy Market & Deli: Vape pods from Juul and Plus Pods.
Portland Extracts: Two flavored vape cartridges from Winberry Farms.
Brothers Cannabis Club: No flavored vaping products available.
Amberlight Cannabis House: No flavored vaping products available.
Nectar Montavilla: Select brand flavored cartridges in watermelon and strawberry, Exhale cartridges in apple and blueberry.
Bridge City Collective: No flavored vaping products available.