Anti-smoking campaigns and regulations have been highly successful in recent years, sharply cutting cigarette use by teens. Nationally, the share of high schoolers who smoke cigarettes fell from more than 15.8 percent in 2011 to about 8 percent in 2016, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Still, that’s 8 percent more than a perfect zero and doesn’t account for increased use of electronic cigarettes, prompting continued efforts across the country to further reduce tobacco use among teens. Preventing youngsters from starting to smoke is the best way to protect them from a lifetime of health problems.
In Oregon, the Legislature has raised the legal age to buy cigarettes from 18 to 21, effective in January 2018. And Deschutes County is considering a proposal to require licenses for any business that sells tobacco.
Both moves are likely to be hard on businesses for which tobacco sales make up a large percentage of their revenue. In Chicago, which raised the buying age last year, retail shops have taken a big hit, according to a report from the Chicago Tribune.
Unfortunately, the rationale for the Deschutes license plan is less than convincing.
The county’s Health Services Department presented its idea to the Redmond City Council recently, as detailed by Bulletin reporter Allie Colosky.
County Tobacco Prevention Coordinator Penny Pritchard told the council there’s little training for retail staff about how to identify underage customers and no effective standard to discipline repeat offenders who sell to them. She said many retail owners are unaware of the impending new age limits and that authorities can’t educate them if they don’t know who they are.
That’s where the logic breaks down. If you can identify the retail businesses so as to require them to get a license, surely you can identify them so as to educate them. It’s overkill to require licenses, with all the attending regulations and fees. It’s especially inappropriate when they are about to face the loss of sales caused by the state’s new age limit. Better to continue with the many methods that have proved so successful and to see the impact of the new state age limit than to create a new regulatory framework that further burdens local business owners.
Editor’s note: This editorial has been corrected. The original version included an incorrect first name for Penny Pritchard. The Bulletin regrets the error.