Holding Big Tobacco Accountable

Despite the tobacco industry’s marketing power, people and communities are stronger. Across the state, people are working together to change the way tobacco is marketed, protect children and youth, and help people quit. We still have work to do, but we celebrate the wins that make a difference.

Sales Without a License

Oregon is one of only nine states that does not require retailers to have a license to sell tobacco products the state’s leading cause of preventable death.8 Surprised? So are 66 percent of people in Oregon.1 Without a license requirement, it’s difficult for the state to enforce laws like prohibiting sales to people under age 21.2

Tobacco Retail Licensure would change that by requiring a license to sell tobacco products, something nearly three in four Oregon adults support.1 It also paves the way for other protections, like limiting how many tobacco retailers can be in an area or requiring retailers to be located away from schools.2 This could reduce the number of Oregon youth and young adults who become addicted to tobacco, help people who use tobacco to quit, and reduce health care costs.2 Multnomah, Benton, Clatsop, Lane and Klamath Counties already require tobacco retailers to have a license, and are working to make those licenses stronger. And momentum is building in other Oregon counties.

Raising the Price of Tobacco Products

Across the country, communities are raising the price of tobacco, a strategy proven to help people quit and keep youth from starting.3 Every 10 percent increase in cigarette prices reduces youth smoking by about 7 percent and the total amount of cigarettes smoked by about 4 percent.4 Sometimes communities raise prices through tax increases. Other times it’s by fighting tricks the industry uses to keep prices low. This can include stopping industry discounts and coupons (e.g., buy one get one free) or setting a minimum price for tobacco. It could also mean requiring a minimum pack size for products like cigarillos — these are now sold as singles for a very low price, affordable to kids with just couch change.

We can do these things in Oregon! Both local and state governments have the authority to raise taxes on e-cigarettes (vape). Local and state governments can adopt policies that limit tobacco coupons and other discounts that keep tobacco cheap. The state government has the authority to raise cigarette and smokeless tobacco taxes. We have strong momentum already: Half of Oregon adults support prohibiting the use of tobacco coupons or discounts,1  and federal law already prohibits most promotional samples.7

Stopping Flavored Tobacco Products

It is against U.S. law to make or sell flavored cigarettes – except for menthol. In fact, the tobacco industry fought hard to keep selling menthol cigarettes, against the protests of the Congressional Black Caucus. Other flavored tobacco and nicotine products, including vape, e-cigarettes and cigarillos, remain legal and easy to get — and are designed to appeal to youth. Policies that restrict flavors — fruit and candy as well as menthol — could stop the sale of these tobacco products.2 Fifty-four percent of Oregon adults support prohibiting the sale of flavored products, but nearly half don’t know that this kind of law is possible in Oregon.1

Limiting Where Tobacco is Advertised and Sold

The more often children see tobacco products and ads, the more likely they are to try tobacco.5 In neighborhoods with more tobacco ads and places to buy tobacco, youth smoke at higher rates.6 Most communities can pass policies to address this problem. They can limit the number of retailers in an area, or the number of retailers per person, through tobacco retail licensure and zoning restrictions. Cities and counties may also require a minimum distance between retailers.2 And they can ban retail locations near schools or other areas youth go often, something supported by more than 60 percent of Oregon adults.1

Creating Tobacco-Free Pharmacies

Nationally, there is a growing movement among pharmacies — where people go for medicine, flu shots and health care advice — to go tobacco-free. Cities like San Francisco started the tobacco-free pharmacy movement with city-wide bans, and Massachusetts now bans tobacco sales in pharmacies across the state. In 2014, CVS Pharmacy removed tobacco products from all stores nationwide. It’s been very successful since, showing that pharmacies can flourish without selling tobacco products.2

Raising the Age for Buying Tobacco
to 21

Oregon scored a win for kids when the state legislature and Governor Kate Brown raised the legal age to buy tobacco products, including e-cigarettes and vape, to 21. The law took effect January 1, 2018, and made Oregon the fifth state to pass this type of legislation. Shortly after, an evaluation showed that fewer youth were starting to use tobacco, and fewer youth felt like it was “easy” to get tobacco products. In 2019, the federal government followed suit and raised the federal minimum age to purchase all tobacco products from 18 to 21.

Keeping an Eye on the Industry

People across Oregon — local health department staff and volunteers — visited nearly 2,000 Oregon tobacco retailers in 2018 to see what the industry was doing. Their findings in this report are clear: The tobacco industry is aggressively marketing to people in Oregon. It especially targets youth, communities of color and people living with lower incomes. The good news is that there are proven ways that Oregon communities can fight back. Read the full report to learn more.

  1. Oregon Health Authority. (2018, November). Smokefree Oregon ad recall survey. Unpublished data.

  2. Oregon Health Authority. Tobacco retail environment. Retrieved from https://www.oregon.gov/oha/PH/DISEASESCONDITIONS/CHRONICDISEASE/HPCDPCONNECTION/TOBACCO/Pages/RetailLicensing.aspx

  3. Center for Public Health Systems Science. (2014). Point-of-Sale Strategies: A Tobacco Control Guide. St. Louis: Center for Public Health Systems Science, George Warren Brown School of Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis and the Tobacco Control Legal Consortium.

  4. Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. (2017, June 7). U.S. state and local issues: tobacco taxes. Retrieved from https://www.tobaccofreekids.org/what-we-do/us/state-tobacco-taxes

  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2012). Preventing tobacco use among youth and adults: a report of the surgeon general. pg. 2. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/sgr/2012/consumer_booklet/pdfs/consumer.pdf

  6. Oregon Health Authority Public Health Division, Health Promotion and Chronic Disease Prevention Section. Oregon tobacco facts. Retrieved from https://public.health.oregon.gov/PreventionWellness/TobaccoPrevention/Pages/pubs.aspx

  7. Center for Public Health Systems Science. (2014). Point-of-Sale Strategies: A Tobacco Control Guide. St. Louis: Center for Public Health Systems Science, George Warren Brown School of Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis and the Tobacco Control Legal Consortium.

  8. Oregon Health Authority Public Health Division, Health Promotion and Chronic Disease Prevention Section. 2018. Oregon tobacco facts. Available at https://public.health.oregon.gov/PreventionWellness/TobaccoPrevention/Pages/pubs.aspx.