Gresham area supporters urge tobacco retail licensing in Multnomah County

October 27, 2015

Multnomah County Commissioners and Gresham City Council members discuss tobacco retail licensing
From left, Chair Deborah Kafoury, Council President Jerry Hinton, Commissioner Diane McKeel and Gresham City Council members Karylinn Echols and Lori Stegmann after the Gresham Town Hall on tobacco retail licensing.

Supporters of tobacco retail licensing thanked the Multnomah County Commission on Monday for taking steps to prevent illegal purchases by young people.

At a town hall in Gresham City Council chambers on Oct. 26, a business owner, retiree and community member all said that prevention is key to keeping kids from becoming life-long tobacco users.

“I’m speaking to the choir here, but I appreciate so much that Multnomah County is moving forward when the state legislature is not,’’ said Lee Dayfield, a Gresham community member who helped establish Nadaka Nature Park and Garden.

The evening was the third public hearing that the Multnomah County Commissioners have held since Oct. 20 around licensing tobacco retailers. Chair Deborah Kafoury and Commissioner Diane McKeel opened the gathering by saying the board had committed to act after the legislature in 2015 failed to pass any licensure measure.  

Bruce Broussard, a restaurant owner in Jantzen Beach, said he hoped the measure would have a strong marketing campaign to provide “visual aids’’ like billboards to educate young people about tobacco addiction. “If you can get to one kid, that is a plus,’’ he said.

Retiree Robert Williams thanked the board for not waiting and said he hoped Clackamas County Commissioners would follow suit.

“I came tonight because it is good to see someone not only trying to push the legislature, but pull them along because you are doing something,’’ Williams said.

Citizens Bruce Broussard and Robert Williams, right, express support for licensing.
Citizens Bruce Broussard and Robert Williams, right, express support for licensing.

Luci Longoria, health promotion manager  at the Oregon Health Authority, said the state’s leading public health agency commends and encourages the board for exploring policies proven to limit tobacco use. Among them: eliminating flavors; banning sales of single cigarettes; not allowing the redemption of coupons; regulating the density of retailers around schools; and setting a minimum sales age. She said the tobacco industry has worked to package, flavor and price its products to be indistinguishable from candy.“When tobacco is sweet, cheap and easy to get, kids use it,’’ Longoria said.

Commissioner McKeel said those policy actions are issues the board may consider down the road, but wants their focus on tobacco retail licensing now to be “clear and clean"

"There is a laundry list of actions that could be taken, we have a list of what other communities are doing, and we’ll be looking at those in the upcoming months,’’ said Chair Kafoury. “We’ll be holding hearings and looking for input on those at that time.”

Gresham City Council Members Jerry Hinton, Karylinn Echols and Lori Stegmann all attended and asked questions and commented.

Stegmann recalled her teenage years when kids would forge notes from their parents to buy cigarettes for themselves at the local store. “It was just so easy to buy cigarettes, that I say, 'kudos to you.'”

Commissioners plan to release a draft ordinance on tobacco licensing on Wednesday, Oct. 28 and vote on the ordinance at their regular Nov. 5 meeting.