County Continues to See Successes in Addressing Youth Tobacco Use

The legal age for purchasing tobacco products (e.g. cigarettes, chew, e-cigarettes) in the State of Oregon was raised to 21 in January of this year, up from 18 years old. These changes mean that retailers and certified smoke shops can no longer sell tobacco products, inhalant delivery systems, or tobacco delivery systems to people younger than 21. In an effort to help retailers prepare for the changes to the law, the County Health Department hosted a free retailer training in late 2017. The training helped attendees increase their knowledge and skills around checking and identifying fake IDs, preventing sales to minors, compliance checks, and current laws.

In order to monitor compliance with the law, the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) engaged in State wide compliance checks in the first six months of 2018. A report released by OHA shows that 18% of inspected retailers made sales to customers under the legal age; a rate that is slightly higher than the rate before the law changed. While numbers across the State are concerning, Benton County sees success in preventing sales to those under the age of 21; in our county the past year violation rate was 6.7 percent, with only one retailer failing the State’s compliance check.

Our retailer’s positive performance can be attributed to the County’s comprehensive tobacco prevention and education efforts. In addition to annual retailer trainings, the County has had a tobacco retailer licensing system in place since the late 90’s. The licensing system requires that retailers follow all local, state, and federal laws related to tobacco and tobacco retailing. Violating these laws places financial penalty on the retailer and could result in a loss of license.

Tobacco use is still the number one preventable cause of death in disease in Oregon, and remains one of the top health related issues in Benton County. Many more things can still be done to relieve our community of this burden, but we should be proud of our retailers and community in doing their part to protect our youth.