Inspections and Violations

What happens when a violation is found at my store during an inspection?

The inspector will document the violation, create a remediation plan and provide educational resources to help you comply. The inspector will then come back for an unannounced follow-up visit to see if you’ve complied with your plan. If the documented violations have been corrected and there are no other violations, no action is taken. If there are, you may get a penalty according to the penalty structure.

What happens if there is an illegal sale to a minor during a Multnomah County minimum sales age inspection?

Due to the severity of this violation, we may give you a penalty without first offering a remediation plan.

What’s the difference between a penalty and a violation?

A violation can happen during an inspection for many reasons. A penalty may be given only after a violation has been found and it has not been addressed by the time of the follow-up inspection (within 30 days of the violation). The exception to this is a sales to a minor violation, which may result in a penalty without a remediation plan.

Does the 60-month lookback period start at the beginning of the license or at the first penalty?

It starts when the first penalty is applied. After 60 months, another penalty period begins only after you receive another penalty.

Would a 30- or 90-day suspension that goes beyond the 60-month lookback period be shortened when the lookback period ends?

No. The length of the suspension is not tied to the 60-month lookback period. A suspension at the end will not be reduced.

Can I appeal my first violation? What about my second? Third? Fourth?  

Anytime you receive a notice of penalty you have the right to appeal. The appeal process is not limited to a particular violation.

What other tobacco-related inspections might I receive?  

There are multiple agencies which may inspect your store if you sell tobacco:

  • Multnomah County Health Department conducts inspections to make sure retailers are in compliance with the Multnomah County tobacco retail license.
  • The Oregon Health Authority conducts 3 types of inspections: Enforcement and Synar inspections to check compliance with laws that ban the sales of tobacco to minors, and Food and Drug Administration inspections to check compliance with the Family Smoking and Tobacco Control Act.
  • The Oregon Department of Revenue may inspect your business to make sure all tobacco products have been purchased from a licensed distributor and tobacco taxes have been paid.

Do violations found by another agency, such as the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) or Food and Drug Administration (FDA) count as a violation of my Multnomah County tobacco retail license?

No. Multnomah County inspectors must observe or witness the violation.

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Products and Samples

Why are vaping products on the tobacco products list? They don’t contain tobacco, are not derived from tobacco and are not components of an actual tobacco product.

The products list matches the FDA definitions for regulated tobacco products, which includes vaping products and devices.

Nicotine—whether derived from tobacco or synthetic—is a highly addictive substance that interferes with normal brain development in youth. The use of vaping products tripled among middle school and high school students between 2013 and 2014. Including vape products ensures that retailers are informed and trained on how to comply with tobacco and nicotine product minor access laws.

What does this mean for vape product sampling? Free hookah sessions?

Free samples of vape products and free hookah sessions are now prohibited by federal law. You can no longer sample products under the FDA deeming rules as of August 8, 2016.

Do free samples include cigarette packs which are packaged and labeled “buy one, get one free?”

While samples are prohibited, if packaged and labeled, “buy one, get one free” cigarette packs are not considered free samples. Because a customer only gets the “free” pack of cigarettes when they buy another pack of cigarettes, this is the same as paying half-price for both packages.

Do I need a tobacco retail license if I sell tobacco in a vending machine?

If a location only sells tobacco and/or vaping products in a vending machine, they are not required to have a Multnomah County tobacco retail license. However, you must follow all other regulations that apply to tobacco vending machines, such as not placing them where minors can access them.

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Liquor Stores

Why are liquor stores included?

Regardless of the store model, if you are a Multnomah County retailer which sells tobacco and nicotine products over the counter, you are required to apply for a tobacco retail license.

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General Questions

Why do you need to collect information about my store like race, tobacco sales and number of employees?

One recommendation we heard strongly during our public engagement process was for us to evaluate the program to make sure the license is being equitably enforced. We need data to help us know if the new policy is having a different impact on any specific group of businesses, such as small and/or minority-owned businesses. This data will also help us make changes to support equitable training, education and enforcement.

Asking for a preferred language on the license application helps us provide translated materials to store owners.

How were the rules and policy decided?

In November 2015, the Board of County Commissioners passed an ordinance to establish tobacco retail licensing in Multnomah County. Before they passed the ordinance, they held several public hearings throughout the county to get feedback and testimony from experts and the general public.

The rules were carefully reviewed and recommendations were made by a 17-member rules advisory committee, which included several retailer organizations, youth group representatives, as well as public health policy and enforcement specialists. These meetings were open to the public. Meeting minutes and rule revisions were published online for public review. The final draft rules were published online for 2 weeks during a public comment period in June before they were adopted by the Board.

If I want to change the requirements, who do I talk to?

Please contact the county commissioner who serves your district.

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