Two years ago, if a clerk were caught selling cigarettes to a minor, they’d be issued a $700 fine. It’s still illegal to sell tobacco products to minors, of course. What has changed is enforcement.
Catching those retailers used to be the job of the Oregon State Police, but now the state’s Department of Human Services runs the program. When one of Oregon’s two inspectors finds a convenience store, gas station or other tobacco retailer that sells to a minor, he fills out a federal survey marking the violation. But the inspectors lack the authority to issue a citation. Tobacco prevention experts blame the state’s cash-strapped agencies that spend just enough to stay in compliance with federal law but not enough to fund enforcement. Essentially, the honor system keeps retailers from selling tobacco to minors.
A handful of cities and counties have implemented a licensing system to help monitor tobacco sellers. Those without a system have no way of even knowing where tobacco is being sold.
Do you sell cigarettes? How closely and consistently do you check IDs? Did you purchase cigarettes as a minor? What’s your experience?
- Carl Nelson: Inspector with the Tobacco Retail Inspectors Program
- Brett Hamilton:Executive director of Tobacco-Free Coalition of Oregon
- Sara Hartstein: Benton County Tobacco Prevention coordinator
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OPB | April 16, 2015