Commissioners approve first reading of tobacco retail ordinance, schedule final vote Nov. 12

November 5, 2015

Dr. Jae Douglas, director of Environmental Health, describes how the license program will be set up.

Multnomah County Commissioners on Thursday unanimously approved the first reading of a tobacco retail licensing ordinance.

The Board will consider final approval on Thursday, Nov. 12. Commissioners began considering the matter last spring when federal and state stings show the county leads the nation in illegal sales of cigarettes to minors.

“There is no debate over whether cigarettes are bad for you. There is no debate over whether kids should have access to cigarettes,’’ said Chair Deborah Kafoury. “And there is no debate over whether retailers should sell cigarettes and yet we have this terrible record.

“We are here to say, enough is enough.’’

The ordinance:

Requires a tobacco retail license with fees for every tobacco retailer location.

Includes inhalant delivery systems (vaping products) containing or delivering nicotine.

Provides that a  violation of any tobacco control law is a violation of tobacco retail  licensing and may lead to civil penalties.

Requires that a rulemaking committee develop the detailed rules that will be administered by the Multnomah County Health Department.

Gives the Health Department authority to inspect and enforce the rules.

Gives the Board authority to approve the annual license fee and fine structure.

Assistant County Attorney Bernadette Nunley
Assistant County Attorney Bernadette Nunley details highlights of the ordinance for the Board.

Program to be developed in 2016, enforced in 2017

Jae Douglas, director of Environmental Health, said if approved, the Health Department would advertise for nominees for the committee and then return at end of November a slate to consider. She said the county will post a website to collect nominations online and will including advocates, business and public health officials.

She also outlined a timetable: In 2016, the Health Department will conduct rulemaking and launch an education program and media campaign. The county will begin issuing licenses in July 2016 and begin enforcing the rules in January 2017.

Commissioner Loretta Smith urged the health Department to particularly reach out to retailers who face language barriers.

“I just want to acknowledge the significant outreach that has been done around the county,’’ said Commissioner Diane McKeel, tallying presentations to the cities of Gresham, Fairview and next week, Wood Village.

Douglas said the only objection heard in that time was that the ordinance would not be statewide.