Washington County leaders have passed Oregon’s first ban on flavored tobacco products.
The Board of County Commissioners voted 3 to 2 Tuesday to prohibit retail sales of any flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes and vape pens.
Ordinance 878 was created based on findings that indicate tobacco use by young people continues to be a significant health risk.
“The Board heard compelling evidence that restricting access of flavored products results in fewer young people using addictive tobacco and nicotine substances as well as higher quit rates,” Chair Kathryn Harrington said in a statement after the vote.
The board’s action serves to prohibit the sale of any tobacco or synthetic nicotine product to anyone under 21; prohibit sales of any flavored tobacco or synthetic nicotine product in any retail establishment; and prohibit coupons, discounts and price promotions for any tobacco products.
At Tuesday’s board meeting, most public comment was against the ban. Commissioner Jerry Willey, who voted against the ban, worried about the financial impact to locally owned stores.
The county is “making the retail suppliers and outlets pay the price because they’re the ones who are going to feel the pinch,” he said.
Under Ordinance 878, violations are subject to a Class A civil infraction issued by a county code enforcement officer. This could mean a fine of up to $2,000 for individuals or $4,000 for corporations. The ordinance will apply countywide, including inside city boundaries.
“Even though the vote was not unanimous, we clearly heard each commissioner express agreement that the use of tobacco substances is harmful and marketing strategies that aggressively target anyone in our community—especially young people and marginalized groups—are unacceptable,” Harrington said in her statement after the vote. “I’m confident that this step forward, along with the rollout of statewide tobacco retail licensing requirements, will serve to protect the health of all Washington County residents.”
The ban goes into effect in 30 days but will not be enforced until Jan. 1