PORTLAND, Ore. – Oregon’s new Oregon Tobacco Retail License Program has marked its first year of work improving retailer compliance with the state’s tobacco retail sales laws, including making sure retailers aren’t selling commercial tobacco to people younger than 21.
The program launched Jan. 1, 2022. In its first year, the Oregon Tobacco Retail License Program inspected more than 500 businesses around the state and found that 25% of them illegally sold tobacco products to underage buyers. Looking forward to 2023, OHA wants all retailers to know about available tools to lower the rate of sales to youth or young adults younger than 21.
“Getting a license is the first step to ensuring that retailers are getting connected to the resources they need to fully comply with all commercial tobacco sales laws,” said Rachael Banks, OHA’s public health director. “Retailers also need to check that products are displayed and sold according to the law and that customers’ identifications are always correctly checked so that sales to those younger than 21 do not happen.”
The licensing program was created to increase retailer knowledge of, and compliance with, federal and state laws regulating the sale of commercial tobacco and vaping products. It allows OHA to watch for trends in compliance and provide education to local businesses so stores are healthier places for everyone to shop. OHA offers retailers online training, phone consultation and education during compliance checks.
“Our hope is not to find any stores in violation of these laws or have to hand out any fines,” Banks said. “Our goal is to help retailers follow all commercial tobacco sales laws so we can keep commercial tobacco out of the hands of Oregon’s youth and young adults younger than 21, which is one small step toward healthier communities.
To verify if a store is properly checking identification of customers, the state works with young adult inspectors who are 18, 19 and 20 years old. These inspectors use their real state or federally issued identification cards to attempt a purchase of commercial tobacco products. If a store employee asks how old they are, the inspector answers honestly.
If a store employee fails this inspection by not asking for ID, a compliance specialist enters the store immediately after the inspector leaves and informs the employee who made the illegal sale that they have failed the inspection. The store license holder will then receive a letter with the results, along with instructions if they’d like to appeal. A first-time violation brings a penalty of $1,000.
Resources are available to retailers that sell tobacco products to help them stay in compliance with all commercial tobacco laws. Visit OHA’s website for commercial tobacco retailers to access a retailer training manual, fact sheets, compliance checklists and other educational resources. For questions about OHA compliance inspections and enforcement, or to request help, visit healthoregon.org/tobaccoretailsales, email Tobacco.Inspections@dhsoha.state.or.us, or call: 971-673-2283.