Vape Shop Challenges Oregon’s Nitpicky Censorship of E-Liquid Labels

In the stock room at Division Vapor in Portland, Oregon, there is a metal rack holding all manner of e-liquids with a sign reminding employees to “Censor Before Stock!” It refers to state regulations that require merchants to obscure allegedly child-enticing images and words before displaying vaping products to customers. Division Vapor uses stickers to comply with the state-mandated censorship, which in many cases requires covering almost the entire label.

In a lawsuit filed in Multnomah County Circuit Court today with help from the Goldwater Institute, the shop’s owner, Paul Bates, argues that the state’s labeling restrictions violate the Oregon Constitution’s free speech guarantee. “These rules are content-based speech restrictions,” the complaint says. “They are also vague, incomprehensible, and overbroad, and they censor truthful, non-misleading speech about legal products.”

The regulations, issued by the Oregon Health Authority (OHA), elaborate on a state law that says vaping products may not be “packaged in a manner that is attractive to minors.” In 2016 the OHA decreed that labels cannot feature cartoons or “celebrities, athletes, mascots, fictitious characters played by people, or other people likely to appeal to minors.” Nor can they depict “food or beverages likely to appeal to minors such as candy, desserts, soda, food or beverages with sweet flavors including fruit or alcohol.” This year the OHA also forbade “terms or descriptive words for flavors that are likely to appeal to minors such as tart, tangy, sweet, cool, fire, ice, lit, spiked, poppin’, juicy, candy, desserts, soda, sweet flavors including fruit, or alcohol flavors.”



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