Vaping, which uses electronic devices to vaporize flavored liquids, routinely is promoted as a less-risky alternative to smoking, although concerns remain about the relatively new practice.
Linda Richter of the Center on Addiction explains that even though there’s no tobacco in the vapor that is produced, the particles can include chemicals that can lead to cancer.
Nevertheless, like the cigarettes and cigars that have been popular for generations, the new technology remains legal for adults.
It’s not just legal to talk about it.
At least in Oregon.
Which has prompted a lawsuit by the Goldwater Institute on behalf of Paul Bates of Division Vapor, a limited liability company.
“Every business has a right to provide customers with accurate information about the products the business is legally allowed to sell. Freedom of speech doesn’t just help businesses succeed, though – it also ensures that customers get the information that they need to make wise choices,” the institute explained. “That’s certainly the case with regard to products that can benefit their health, including e-cigarettes or ‘vaping’ devices that are helping countless people to quit smoking. Yet Oregon is now censoring truthful information about these legal products by prohibiting retailers from putting pictures of apples, strawberries, and oranges – or even those very words – on their product labels. This censorship harms Oregon consumers and violates the constitutional rights of responsible entrepreneurs.”
The case is against the Oregon Health Authority.
“Division Vapor seeks a declaration that it is unconstitutional to require vape shops to censor labels that accurately describe vaping liquids and prevent vape shops from displaying those products in a way that is attractive to adult customers,” the institute said.
“What if you walked into an ice cream shop, but the store owner couldn’t tell you what any of the flavors were? This may sound ludicrous, but an Oregon law is keeping some business owners from speaking in such a way – and the Goldwater Institute is taking a stand to protect their right to share truthful information about lawful products with their customers,” the institute said.
Under Oregon regulations, vape shops are “not allowed to sell, say, a strawberry-flavored vaping liquid with a drawing of a strawberry – or even the word ‘strawberry’ – on the label because the state regulators say such products are appealing to children.”
The lawsuit challenges the rule.
“Unfortunately, the Oregon regulations are part of a trend of government acting to keep adults from making their own decisions about whether to use lawful products. Even the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recognized the health benefits of switching smokers to e-cigarettes,” the institute said.
“Yet in its recent statement on e-cigarettes, the FDA has taken steps to limit sales of lawful vaping products. While the FDA claims it is targeting underage vaping, these restrictions – as with Oregon’s regulations – go too far in limiting consumers’ ability to purchase legal products for adult use, and they open the door to further limitations down the road,” the institute said.
“While proponents of Oregon’s regulations say they’re trying to protect children, these rules not only hurt consumers, but they hurt the free speech rights of hardworking small business owners trying to make a living,” said Goldwater Institute Senior Attorney Matt Miller. “We hope that the court will recognize that vape shops like Division Vapor shouldn’t have to censor labels that accurately describe vaping liquids and be prevented from displaying those products in a way that is attractive to adult customers.”
The complaint contends that the state’s bans on images of fruit or words such as “apple” or “strawberry” are “content-based speech restrictions on protected speech that is unconstitutional.
The censorship rules require Division Vapor to put labels over the top of many preprinted product labels, in some cases obscuring the entire produce label and making it difficult to sell, the filing contends.
“Oregon forces plaintiff’s vape shop to censor truthful, non-misleading information about products that they are legally permitted to sell; namely, both written and graphical information about vaping liquids,” it charges.