Tobacco Retail Licensing in Clackamas County

The Board of County Commissioners is considering a countywide Tobacco Retail License, which would require businesses in the county who sell tobacco and nicotine products, including E-cigarettes, to purchase a license. This includes large retailers, convenience stores, gas stations, pharmacies and bars.

Background

Why is a Tobacco Retail Licensing Being Considered?

The state raised the minimum legal sales age for tobacco products from 18 to 21 in January 2018 because research found that the vast majority of tobacco users started before the age of 20. Raising the age of tobacco sales prevents children and young adults from developing a lifelong addition to nicotine.

According to the Oregon Health Authority, one in three Clackamas County 11th graders said that it would be “very easy” to access to tobacco products (2017 Oregon Healthy Teen survey). This is alarming because nicotine is a highly addictive, powerful drug and may have a lasting negative impact on teens’ developing brains.

Licensing would allow the county to know who sells tobacco, monitor their compliance with laws and enforce penalties if tobacco is sold to people younger than 21.

How Effective is Tobacco Retail Licensing in Reducing Youth Access to Tobacco?

Communities across the country, including four counties and a number of cities within Oregon, are implementing Tobacco Retail Licensing to prevent youth from illegally purchasing nicotine products. While it is too soon to see the results in Oregon, California saw dramatic decreases of illegal youth sales after communities passed tobacco retail licensing.

Tobacco Retail Licensing reduces illegal sales to minors through retailer education and enforcement of laws - something that education alone cannot do.

What Would the Economic Impact of Tobacco Retail Licensing Be?

Portland State University’s Northwest Economic Research Center determined that a license fee of $500 – $600 would not have a significant effect on the economy. The licensing fee will amount to $1.37 - $1.64 per day to sell tobacco and nicotine products, which can be offset by an increase in tobacco prices. Learn more about the license’s economic impact.

How Will the County and Cities Work Together on Tobacco Retail Licensing?

We met with all cities in Clackamas County and have presented to nine city councils. They raised thoughtful questions and vocalized support. We reached out to the tobacco product retailers. They also raised thoughtful questions that we answered. Retailer outreach efforts included the following:

  • Mailed letters to 293 known retail locations
  • Created a TRL FAQ webpage
  • Created an online survey for retailers
  • Hosted two listening sessions with retailers facilitated by Resolution Services: Nov. 20 in Sandy and Nov. 27 in Oregon City
  • Mailed post-card reminding retailers of last listening session
  • Published Listening Sessions Report prepared by Resolution Services
  • Published Public Health Response to Retailers

If adopted, the county’s Public Health Division would administer the license, educate retailers and enforce tobacco-related laws. A countywide license would avoid a patchwork of city ordinances. Cities would follow their own governing process to support Tobacco Retail Licensing, either by resolution or with an Inter-Governmental Agreement with the county.

Tobacco Retail Licensing Task Force

At the direction of the Board, the Public Health Division conducted a robust community engagement process that gathered input about a countywide TRL from stakeholders across our community. In total, the Public Health Division engaged with over 300 individual stakeholders including local officials, businesses and business interest groups, educators, and health experts. The following community engagement report includes results of interviews with retailers, and the outcomes of a community task force.

TRL Report

The Tobacco Retail License Task Force will provide input on the TRL ordinance and provide recommendations on policy strategies to address the problem of youth access to tobacco products and inhalant delivery systems.
The committee is responsible for:

  • Providing recommendations to the Public Health Division for consideration by H3S on a proposed tobacco retail license ordinance that addresses the problem of youth access to tobacco products and inhalant delivery systems in Clackamas County.
  • If the Board of Health adopts a Tobacco Retail Licensing Ordinance, the Task Force will advise on the rules to implement the County’s tobacco retail licensing ordinance.
July 9, 2019 presentation minutes sign-in sheets matrix of ordinances ordinance (draft) report
June 26, 2019 presentation minutes sign-in sheets charter (draft) ordinance (draft) FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions

Tobacco Retail Licensing requires all businesses in the county, including large retailers, convenience stores, gas stations, pharmacies and bars, to purchase an annual license to sell tobacco and nicotine products, including E-cigarettes.

Tobacco Retail Licensing is part of Clackamas County’s comprehensive strategy to prevent youth from using nicotine products and end the burden of tobacco-related disease and death.

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Tobacco Retail Licensing is a tool used to improve enforcement of federal, state, and local tobacco laws. It enables local jurisdictions to identify tobacco retailers, monitor their compliance with laws and enforce penalties if tobacco is sold to people under the age of 21. It provides a platform for retailer education and consequences if tobacco is sold illegally. Penalties, such as fines or suspending retailers’ ability to sell tobacco, deter retailers from selling tobacco to youth.

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Youth who have more opportunities to obtain tobacco and see more tobacco advertising are more likely to use tobacco and nicotine products due to their susceptibility to marketing. Studies show that density of tobacco retailers and proximity of retailers

to schools impacts youth tobacco rates. Increased tobacco retailer density is linked to experimental smoking among youth.

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Many youth today are being introduced to nicotine through e-cigarettes rather than conventional cigarettes and tobacco products. A 2015 survey found that among e-cigarette users aged 19-24, 40% had never been regular cigarette smokers. Juul is a brand of e-cigarettes that has skyrocketed in popularity among teens, commanding over half the e-cigarette market.

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Tobacco Retail Licensing reduces illegal sales to minors through retailer education and enforcement of laws. Communities across the country, including four counties and a number of cities within Oregon, are implementing Tobacco Retail Licensing to prevent youth from illegally purchasing nicotine products. While it is too soon to see the results in Oregon, a recent assessment of 33 communities in California that implemented a tobacco retail license, showed dramatically decreased rates of illegal youth sales.

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Portland State University’s Northwest Economic Research Center determined that a license fee of $500 — $600 would not have a significant effect on the Clackamas County economy. A $500 — $600 fee amounts to $1.37 — $1.64 per day to sell tobacco and nicotine products. The impact on store revenue would be minimal, as retailers are able to raise tobacco prices to offset the cost of the license.

A private employer may pay over $5816 annually to employ an individual who smokes tobacco compared to a non-smoking employee. Preventing youth access to tobacco through Tobacco Retail Licensing would result in a healthier future workforce.

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Tobacco Retail Licensing will reduce youth access and initiation to tobacco and nicotine products, protecting them from a lifetime of addiction and tobacco-related disease. This will ultimately improve quality of life, increased productivity and health care savings. Allocating responsibility to the Board of Health to pass Tobacco Retail Licensing shifts the administration and implementation to Clackamas County Public Health Division, resulting in consistent education and enforcement county-wide.

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