Multnomah County is considering rules that would ban the sale of flavored tobacco and nicotine products in our county.
Tobacco use is the number one cause of preventable death, locally and nationally. In October, public health leaders recommended the sales ban to reduce youth access to tobacco and help create nicotine-free future generations.
The Multnomah County Board of Commissioners is seeking public comment on a draft Flavored Tobacco Sales Ordinance. The Board will hold a public hearing on the matter at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 28.
The Board is scheduled to hear a first reading of this ordinance on Thursday, Dec. 1 and a possible second reading on Dec. 15.
Why the Board is considering this action
Tobacco remains a leading cause of premature death and disease in Multnomah County. Since 2014, the Health Department has worked to identify how children and young people start using tobacco products, how the next generation of users become addicted to nicotine and how that cycle can be broken.
For decades, manufacturers have used sweet, minty and specialty flavors to hook young people into trying products that will addict them for life. And they have also successfully targeted specific demographics by using local and national celebrities, product placements and free product giveaways in neighborhoods and venues to create new demand.
The Board has worked to follow Health Department recommendations to counter this wave. With the emergence and wild popularity of e-cigarettes, in 2015, the Board of Commissioners banned minors from buying and using inhalant delivery systems and restricted their use in any indoor area that was smoke-free under the Oregon Indoor Clean Air Act.
Late that fall, after Multnomah County posted some of the highest rates of illegal sales to minors according to state and federal regulators, the Board moved to license tobacco retailers. Studies have shown licensing sellers helps drive down the illegal sales.
In 2017, Public Health urged the Board to raise the legal age to buy products if the state did not act. That summer, the Governor signed into law making the age 21. On Aug. 16, 2022 Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury asked the Health Department to return with a recommendation for policy language to prevent the sale of flavored nicotine products in Multnomah County. Such a policy will impact the sale of these products, not the use of these products. The Chair requested that the Health Department’s policy recommendation include menthol.
On Oct. 20, the Multnomah County Public Health Division recommended that the Board of County Commissioners ban the sale of flavored tobacco and nicotine products in order to reduce young people’s access to flavored tobacco products and adopt a sales restriction within the County’s Tobacco Retail License program.
In scheduling the upcoming events, Chair Kafoury said, “our Tobacco Retail License enforcement has shown us that minors still successfully purchase these products.”