PORTLAND, Ore. — A new statewide assessment of Oregon retailers that carry tobacco shows the reach of tobacco industry marketing. The report highlights ads and products designed to appeal to youth, as well as heavy marketing to communities of color and people living with lower incomes.
Oregon Health Authority worked with county health department staff, tribes, community partners and volunteers across the state to conduct the assessment of nearly 2,000 Oregon tobacco retailers. This week it released a report of the findings, along with recommended strategies to make retail outlets healthier for all Oregonians.
"The tobacco industry spends more than $100 million per year to market its products in Oregon communities," said Lillian Shirley, director of the OHA Public Health Division. "It pours most of this money into convenience stores, grocery stores and other retailers where people shop daily. They know that kids who see tobacco marketing are more likely to start smoking and that tobacco ads trigger cravings for people trying to quit."
The assessment report included these key findings:
The report comes at a time when communities are increasingly concerned about flavored tobacco use among youth, especially e-cigarette products like Juul. In 2018 Oregon began enforcing a new tobacco minimum legal sales age of 21. Initial results of the law show it may reduce the number of youth who start smoking. The new retail assessment report illustrates that more work remains to be done.
Some cities and counties, like Klamath Falls and Multnomah County, are using tobacco retail licensure to track the sale of tobacco products, ensure retailers comply with the new sales age, and keep tobacco products out of the hands of kids. Clatsop County is considering a similar proposal.
"Clatsop County school officials and public health staff have reported students using e-cigarettes and other nicotine-delivery devices at alarming rates," said Julia Hesse, Clatsop County health promotion specialist. "It seems inconceivable that we need a license to sell Christmas trees and own dogs in Oregon, but not to sell tobacco or nicotine products. We need a better way to hold retailers accountable if they illegally sell to youth."