Oregon AG moves to block ‘E-cigarette’ sales

The Oregon Department of Justice filed two settlements Thursday that prevent two national travel store chains from selling “electronic cigarettes” in Oregon.

The action is the first of its kind in the country and prevents Oregonians from buying potentially dangerous products that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has yet to approve.

“When products threaten the health and safety of Oregonians, we will take action,” said Mary Williams, deputy attorney general. “If companies want to sell electronic cigarettes to consumers, they have to be able to prove they are safe.”

The affected travel store chains, Pilot Travel Centers, which has seven centers in Oregon, and TA Operating, which has four centers in Oregon, both sell “NJOY” brand electronic cigarettes.

Electronic cigarettes are actually battery operated nicotine delivery devices constructed to mimic conventional cigarette. Each “cigarette” consists of a heating element and a replaceable plastic cartridge that contains various chemicals, including various concentrations of liquid nicotine. The heating element vaporizes the liquid, which the user inhales as if it were smoke.

Despite FDA issued “Import Alerts” against NJOY and other brands of electronic cigarettes, and despite the fact that the U.S. Customs Service detained several shipments of these devices, sales of electronic cigarettes continue throughout the United States.

Sales persisted even though just last week the FDA warned the public about health concerns regarding electronic cigarettes. FDA tests showed a wide variation in the amount of nicotine delivered by three different samples of nicotine cartridges with the same label. Tests also revealed the presence of nitrosamines - a known carcinogen.

By the time the FDA issued its warnings, the Oregon Department of Justice had already launched an active investigation of the sale and promotion of electronic cigarettes. NJOY electronic cigarettes were a target of that investigation.

Consumer protection has long been a priority for the Oregon Department of Justice. In recent years, the Attorney General’s office has been the lead voice in the ongoing litigation against tobacco companies.

As a result of their work, hundreds of millions of dollars have poured back into the state to subsidize health costs related to the now known hazards of smoking. The Oregon Department of Justice continues to enforce the tobacco Master Settlement Agreement on behalf of the state.

In addition to work on tobacco, the Consumer Protection Section works to protect consumers from financial fraud, consumer scams, dangerous products, and misleading advertising. In the winter, the Department of Justice launched the “Scam Alert Network” to alert consumers to fast moving scams in the marketplace.

The settlement announced Thursday prohibits the sale of electronic cigarettes in Oregon until they are approved by FDA, or until a court rules the FDA does not have the authority to regulate electronic cigarettes.

Even if courts decide that the FDA does not have regulation authority, the settlement stipulates that electronic cigarettes may not be sold in Oregon unless there is competent and reliable scientific evidence to support the product’s safety claims.

In addition, the companies must give the Attorney General advance notice that they intend to sell electronic cigarettes in Oregon, provide copies of all electronic cigarette advertising, and provide copies of the scientific studies they maintain substantiates their claims.

Senior Assistant Attorney General David Hart handled the case for the Oregon Department of Justice.

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