Oregon’s New Packaging Rules Take Effect

Oregon’s New Packaging Rules Take Effect

Imagine choosing from hundreds of nearly identical bottles, none using images of fruit or candy, or distinguishing branding that uses cartoons or animal figures.

Welcome to Oregon.

New Oregon rules for e-liquid packaging went into effect Sept. 1, and they’re unlike anything anywhere else in the country. The vast majority of commercial e-liquid sold in the U.S. will be illegal to sell in Oregon, unless the labels and packaging is significantly altered.

According to the Oregon Health Authority, “An inhalant delivery system is packaged in a manner that is attractive to minors if because of the packaging’s presentation, shape, graphics, coloring or writing, it is likely to appeal to minors.” The rules follow a law that was passed by the state legislature in 2017.

“Inhalant delivery system” means a vaping product that can be used for either e-liquid or a cannabis vaporizer. Similar labeling rules apply to cannabis in all forms, although since edibles like candy and pastries are themselves legal, dispensaries would have little need to put a picture of, say, a cookie on a cookie’s label.

The list of images and words that can’t be used on e-liquid bottles and packaging is extensive. But, according to the state, the list is “non-exclusive” — which means that state regulators could add to it without warning.

This is the “non-exclusive list” of label image elements “likely to appeal to minors”:

  • Cartoons
  • Celebrities
  • Athletes
  • Mascots
  • “Fictitious characters played by people”
  • “Other people likely to appeal to minors”
  • Candy
  • Desserts
  • Soda
  • “Food or beverages with sweet flavors including fruit or alcohol”
  • “The shape of any animal, commercially recognizable toy, sports equipment, or commercially recognizable candy”

The state also prohibits the use of “terms or descriptive words for flavors that are likely to appeal to minors,” including:

  • Tart
  • Tangy
  • Sweet
  • Cool
  • Fire
  • Ice
  • Lit
  • Spiked
  • Poppin’
  • Juice
  • Candy
  • Desserts
  • Soda
  • Sweet flavors including fruit
  • Alcohol flavors

The prohibition on e-liquids “packaged in a manner that is attractive to minors” even applies to e-liquid that doesn’t contain nicotine. The regulators also specify that packaging — for e-liquids that contains nicotine and those that don’t — must be child-resistant too, although that’s already mandated by federal law for nicotine-containing products

The laws will be enforced by state officials doing random compliance inspections.The fines for non-compliance can be very stiff. First violations are addressed with a warning letter, but after that the penalties grow. And each bottle that’s mislabeled is a separate violation.

  • Minimum of $500 for the second violation within a 24-month period of the first violation
  • Minimum of $800 for the third violation within a 24-month period of the second violation
  • Minimum of $2000 for the fourth violation within a 24-month period of the third violation
  • Minimum of $8000 for the fifth violation within a 36-month period of the fourth violation
  • Minimum of $15,000 for the sixth or subsequent violation within a 48-month period of the fifth violation

Since each bottle that breaks the rules counts separately, the fines could easily put a shop out of business. The limit for total fines issued during one inspection is $1,050,000!

With the vaping panic growing, and the FDA considering restrictions on e-liquid flavors, you can expect to see similar proposals coming from other state legislatures. There has never been a more important time for vape shops and juice manufacturers to join and participate in their state associations.