As of Tuesday, a six-month ban on the sale of flavored vaping products went into effect across Oregon, and the impact was immediately felt on the High Desert.
High Mountain Mist in Bend said the anticipated impact on sales has already caused them to make adjustments.
“We’ve cut staffing down to bare bones,” Steve Johnson said. “We’ve cut a couple employees, and the employees that are left are getting minimal hours. Spencer (the owner) and myself are in here working way more hours, because the retail sales are just not going to be there.”
“Today’s the first day, but we’re expecting sales declines in the 60%-80% range,” he added.
Although the temporary ban includes the sale of all flavored vaping products, with or without nicotine, there is a special case.
Johnson said, “The exceptions to that are the tobacco- and cannabis-flavored, but everything else that’s a flavored vaper product is no longer allowed for sale.”
Johnson told NewsChannel 21 that in the six years the shop has been in business, they’ve never had a reported issue or sickness — something they’d be required by law to report to the FDA.
“The flavors we are using are FDA GRAS (generally recognized as safe) flavorings that are recognized safe for human consumption,” Johnson said.
It’s a product he said helped him quit smoking.
“I’m a father of two, and when my oldest was young, I smoked two packs a day, and couldn’t carry him up and down the stairs without getting winded and losing my breath, “Johnson recalled. “I haven’t had a cigarette now in 11 years. I’ve been vaping, and my youngest, who’s now 5, we went out and hiked 12 miles to see a waterfall.”
Johnson told NewsChannel 21 they have 5,000-6,000 customers, and said people who want nicotine will get it someplace. If they cannot get it there, he said, they’ll likely go back to tobacco.
NewsChannel 21 also reached out to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to ask about their investigation into the outbreak.
They responded, in part: “(The) CDC will continue its investigation of the cause or causes so that we can bring an end to lung injury cases associated with e-cigarette use.”
We asked if there are any links between the reported illnesses and deaths in Food and Drug Administration-approved vs. black market products.
They replied, “At this time, FDA and CDC have not identified the cause or causes of the lung injuries in these cases, and the only commonality among all cases is that patients report the use of e-cigarette, or vaping, products.”
Meanwhile, as the investigations continue, Johnson said they’re committed to taking care of their customers, specifically the ones who vape as a safer alternative to smoking.
“We are remaining open,” he said. “We are committed to staying here and doing what we can to help and ensure that our customers are capable of getting their products. We did have a second store in Prineville that we closed due to this, but we’re going to keep the primary Bend store here open and serving customers and doing everything we can to take care of them.”