Repeated illegal sales could lead to loss of license
(Update: adding video, comments from tobacco business owner)
SALEM, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Preventing commercial tobacco sales and marketing to youth will be easier across Oregon beginning in January, as the state enacts a licensing program for tobacco and e-cigarette sales.
Earlier this year, the Oregon Legislature passed Senate Bill 587, which requires retailers to get a license to sell tobacco products and e-cigarettes, starting in 2022. The Oregon Department of Revenue and Oregon Health Authority are developing the program as part of a comprehensive strategy to reduce youth tobacco use and strengthen enforcement of state tobacco laws.
Rich Johnson has been in the tobacco retail business for about 18 years. He owns Midtown Direct Smoke Shop in Bend and knows e-cigarettes have become commonly used among teens.
“We have to keep the vapes out of the hands of kids. I don’t think there’s any question about that, and whatever it takes to make that happen, great,” Johnson said.
Johnson believes that enforcement needs to be at a local level.
“I think that there’s a huge opportunity for Bend to have a local compliance officer who’s just on it," he said. "I guarantee that’s going to be more effective than the state, because the state, with the number of people and resources -- it’s tough,” he said.
Karen Ard, Tobacco Prevention and Education Program coordinator with Deschutes County Health Services, provided information to NewsChannel 21 about youth tobacco use in the area.
About 9 in 10 adults who smoke daily say they started before age 18.
Among 11th graders, the self-reported use of e-cigarettes, vape pens or e-hookahs increased from 19.2% in 2016 to 29.4% in 2018.
In 2018, Deschutes County 11th graders said they used all tobacco products (e-cigarettes, mods, vape pens, cigarettes, cigarillos, cigars, hookah, snus, snuff, pipe tobacco) more than the state average of their peers across Oregon.
Here's the rest of the state news release on the coming retail licensing:
“Everyone deserves a fair and just opportunity to be as healthy as possible – and that includes a life free from addiction to commercial tobacco,” said Rachael Banks, director of the OHA Public Health Division. “Our kids deserve strong protection from commercial tobacco products, like cigarettes and e-cigarettes. Oregon’s new statewide tobacco retail license will reduce youth access to commercial tobacco by helping retailers follow tobacco sales laws and holding retailers accountable if they make illegal sales.”
Licensing allows the state to monitor the number, location and density of tobacco retailers in a community. The state can then educate retailers about tobacco sales laws, mount an inspection program to check compliance and enforce penalties if a retailer repeatedly violates the law, including removing the retailer’s ability to sell tobacco.
In 2019, 23% of Oregon 11th-graders reported using an e-cigarette product with nicotine, and one in five retailers the state inspected sold e-cigarettes illegally to a person younger than 21. Local tobacco retail license programs that were already in place, such as those in Multnomah, Clatsop, and Klamath counties, can continue, in close coordination with the state program.
Effectively enforced licensing programs can reduce youth tobacco use, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Surgeon General. A study of 33 communities showed dramatic decreases in youth tobacco sales since requiring tobacco retail licenses. Before SB 587, Oregon was one of just seven states in the U.S. that did not require retailers to have a license.
“Protecting youth from starting to use vape and other tobacco products is critical,” said Nadia LeMay, Health Strategist with the Crook County Health Department, which was part of the coalition advocating for the passage of SB 587. “Oregon finally has a way to enforce sales and marketing laws and prevent tobacco from getting into the hands of people under 21.”
OHA is developing rules to start the new tobacco retail license program and seeks community partners to serve on a rules advisory committee. People from communities that will be affected most by these rules, including those the tobacco industry as well as tobacco retailers have targeted, are encouraged to apply. If you are interested in nominating yourself to be a member of the rules advisory committee, complete the application located here by Sunday, Oct. 10.
The new law will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2022. To sign up for email updates on commercial tobacco products from the Oregon Department of Revenue, visit https://www.oregon.gov/dor/programs/businesses/Pages/tobacco.aspx.