Oregon is Vaporizing This Shop Owner’s Free Speech Rights
Imagine a world in which you were not allowed to tell the truth, make art, or use descriptive words for a legal product that can save lives. By law.
Couldn’t happen here—not in Oregon, right?
But it has.
That’s effectively what the state of Oregon is doing to small business owners like me. I am the owner of a 21-and-over vape shop in Portland, and most of my customers are people just like me: people who have used e-cigarettes to kick a cigarette habit. E-cigarettes are currently the most popular and effective method of quitting smoking.
You’ve probably heard this kind of quip from a former smoker: “Quitting smoking is easy. I’ve quit hundreds of times.” And so it was for me. I started smoking in the 1980s to fit in with my co-workers, but when I tried to quit, it would be temporary. I tried everything from nicotine patches to medications to cold turkey, but nothing seemed to stick. This would work for a day, a week, maybe months or a year. But with vaping I quit— for good. In one day.
This has been true for many former smokers. The last five years have seen some of the greatest declines in smoking rates in recent decades in the United States. These declines, in youth and adults, coincide with a rise in vaping, as studies have shown. Vaping is really a delivery system for flavor: It’s not about the device, but about a taste. And these tastes—which have taken years of experimentation to fine-tune and get right—are particularly effective at helping people quit smoking. The vape shop, carrying a multitude of flavors and devices that can be tailored to an individual’s taste and needs, is indispensable. They’re home to the experts that can help novice vapers, making the transition from combustible tobacco smoother, easier, and permanent.
Yet the state of Oregon won’t let me share truthful information about my products with the customers who come into my store. Under Oregon Health Authority rules, I cannot display any products with labels that are “likely to appeal to minors.”