Theresa Ball is trying to figure out how to keep her Baker City business open after it becomes illegal to sell her most popular products.
That challenge starts Tuesday when a six-month statewide ban on flavored vaping products, ordered by Oregon Gov. Kate Brown in a recent executive order, takes effect.
Those are liquids that are vaporized in a battery-powered device and inhaled.
Ball, who opened the Baker City Vape shop at 1820 First St. in 2013, said flavored vaping products containing nicotine constitute about 85% of the sales at her business.
Ball considers Brown’s executive order “government overreach.”
“She’s putting so many people out of business,” Ball said on Thursday. “I don’t know if we’ll ever recover from this, in some people’s eyes.”
Ball said she understands that people are frightened by the statistics. Approximately 1,300 people nationwide have reported lung illnesses linked to vaping, and about 30 people, including two in Oregon, have died.
But Ball points out that in some cases the people reported using products that contain THC, the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis, not vaping liquids containing nicotine.
She thinks it’s unfair for the state to ban only the liquids that are flavored. The ban does cover both nicotine and cannabis vapes that are flavored.
Ball also notes that although health officials haven’t determined beyond a doubt what’s causing the illnesses and deaths, anecdotal evidence suggests a connection with products sold illicitly or online rather than in licensed, regulated stores such as hers.
Ball said she advocates for government regulation of vaping.
“Every bottle that comes into our store is licensed,” she said. “But we can’t control the black market and we can’t control the internet.”
Ball said she opposes the temporary ban on flavored vaping liquids not only because she doesn’t believe those pose a health risk, but also because she’s concerned that if those products aren’t available, some vapers will return to smoking cigarettes and subject themselves to the indisputable health risks associated with tobacco.
“Let’s figure out where this is coming from,” Ball said, referring to the rash of lung problems that prompted Brown’s executive order and similar restrictions in other states.
“You don’t stop something that’s working (to help people stop smoking). You fix what’s not working.”
Jody Hallett, who opened High Mountain Smoke Shop in Baker City in 2012 with his wife, Darleen, said about half of their products could be affected by the vaping ban.
“It’s going to impact us quite a bit,” Jody Hallett said Thursday.
He agrees with Ball that government officials should concentrate on what he believes is the source of dangerous products — illicit sales.
Banning only flavored vaping liquids will “drive it even more underground, and make the problem worse,” Hallett contends.
Ball, who is a board member of the Oregon Vapor Trade Association, a nonprofit that represents the vaping industry and opposes Brown’s executive order, said she’s worried about her employees and about her customers.
Ball said she has been gratified by the stories of many of her customers who because of vaping were able to stop smoking.
She kicked the cigarette habit herself in the same way.
“This has been so helpful to so many people,” she said. “People will go back to smoking.”