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Oregon tobacco sellers must get $953 license

A new Oregon law will remove penalties for underage tobacco buyers but adds stiffer consequences for stores that illegally sell tobacco to youth.

Effective Jan. 1, stores that sell tobacco products and nicotine “Inhalant Delivery Systems“ such as e-cigarettes must obtain a license that costs $953 per year, and a business risks losing the license if it doesn’t comply with all tobacco laws by July 1.

According to numbers provided by Krista Klingensmith, Jackson County Public Health’s tobacco prevention and education program coordinator, more than half of all Jackson County stores inspected in 2019 sold tobacco to people younger than 21.

“This law is an important step in stopping those sales and providing further protection for youth,” Klingensmith stated in a news release.

Public health agencies and the Oregon Health Authority will be educating tobacco retailers for the first six months of the law, and will begin enforcing it in July.

Exceptions to the state law are stores that operate on tribal lands, retailers licensed by the the Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission and Oregon Medical Marijuana program to sell vape devices without nicotine, and certain cities in Benton, Clatsop, Klamath, Lane and Multnomah counties that will handle licensing at the local level.

The $953 fee will be used to cover the costs of running the licensing program and conducting inspections.

The Oregon Senate voted 20-8 for the new law June 21, and the House voted 43-15 June 24.

For adult tobacco buyers, the law won’t change how tobacco is sold, nor is it intended to affect the prices of tobacco products.

The law does, however, remove fines and legal penalties for youth who buy, possess or use tobacco. Jackson County Health and Human Services describes the law change as an effort to ensure the law is not over-enforced in minority communities that have traditionally been targeted by the tobacco industry and instead shifts the responsibility to those selling tobacco illegally.

Those who witness a retailer selling tobacco to someone younger than 21 or selling tobacco without a license can report violations to Tobacco.Inspections@state.or.us or by calling 971-673-0984.

For more information about the new law, along with a link to free resources for tobacco retailers, see healthoregon.org/tobaccoretailsales.