County Pervention: ‘Tobacco 21’ welcome, but more steps needed to protect children

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown has signed a new law that raises the required minimum age to legally buy or obtain tobacco products from 18 to 21. This event caps a year-long celebration of 20 years of tobacco prevention successes in the state.

Brown signed SB 754, known as Tobacco 21, making Oregon one of five states to increase the age to purchase tobacco. The other states are California, Hawaii, Maine and New Jersey. The new law takes effect immediately, with enforcement and fines to begin Jan. 1, 2018.

“The passage of Tobacco 21 is a tremendous accomplishment for public health in this state, and the young people of Oregon,” said Oregon Health Authority Public Health Division Director Lillian Shirley. “Tobacco 21 is an evidence-based strategy that will help reduce youth initiation of tobacco. We know that most addiction to tobacco starts in adolescence — in fact, nine of 10 adults who smoke report that they started smoking before they turned 18, and almost 100 percent start before they turn 26.”

She added, “We need to protect kids with laws such as Tobacco 21 because new marketing tactics and products with hookahs, e-cigarettes and flavored vaping products put a new generation at risk of addiction.”

Currently, there is no violation for people ages 18, 19, or 20 to possess tobacco products or inhalant delivery systems. Enforcement will take place at the retail locations that sell these products:

• Effective immediately, retailers and certified smoke shops can no longer sell tobacco products, inhalant delivery systems, or tobacco delivery systems to people younger than 21. There are no exceptions for sales and use of tobacco or inhalant delivery systems to persons under 21 years of age.

• Retailers and certified smoke shops that sell tobacco products or inhalant delivery systems are required to display a sign stating the prohibition of tobacco product or inhalant delivery system sales to persons younger than 21. Failure to post a sign stating this would be a Class A violation.

• Enforcement of this law goes into effect Jan. 1, 2018.

According to the Hood River County Prevention Coalition, in Hood River County, 20 percent of 11th graders and 5 percent of eighth graders use non-cigarette tobacco products including smokeless and flavored tobacco, and e-cigarettes.

“While we applaud Tobacco 21, there are still prevention challenges in Hood River County to keep future generations from starting to use tobacco,” said Ilea Bouse, County Prevention coordinator. She said that nearly three in four tobacco retailers sell flavored tobacco, and about one in two tobacco retailers sell electronic cigarettes or e-cig refills. One in three tobacco retailers display tobacco near candy or toys.

The Hood River County Prevention Department is working to educate the Hood River Community about flavored tobacco products to protect youth from becoming new tobacco customers, and explore ways to expand the Indoor Clean Air Act in order to protect the community from second hand smoke.

For more information about tobacco prevention and the work being doing in Hood River County, visit

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