Enforcement begins January 1 for law raising tobacco purchase age to 21

SB 754, known as Tobacco 21, has been in effect since Gov. Kate Brown signed it into law Aug. 9, 2017, with enforcement and fines beginning Jan. 1, 2018. (File/SBG photo)

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Oregon will soon start enforcing a new law that raised the required minimum age to legally buy or obtain tobacco products from 18 to 21.

SB 754, known as Tobacco 21, has been in effect since Gov. Kate Brown signed it into law Aug. 9, 2017, with enforcement and fines beginning Jan. 1, 2018.

Oregon is the fifth state to increase the age to purchase tobacco, after California, Hawaii, Maine and New Jersey.

Under the new law, retailers can no longer sell tobacco products or inhalant delivery systems, such as a pipe or vaporizing device, to people younger than 21. Violations of the law are punishable by a fine of $50 for employees, $250 for store managers and $500 for store owners; for managers and owners, the fines double by the third offense.

OHA's Public Health Division is authorized to enforce the minimum age of tobacco sales law and coordinates with the Oregon State Policy to conduct state-sponsored compliance inspections.

Katrina Hedberg, MD, Oregon's state health officer and epidemiologist based at the Oregon Health Authority Public Health Division, said raising the minimum age for buying tobacco products and inhalant delivery systems is proven to reduce youth initiation of tobacco use. She noted nine of 10 adults report they started smoking before they were 19, and nearly 100 percent start before age 26.

"The earlier kids start using tobacco, the more at risk they are for becoming addicted to tobacco and developing chronic diseases such as heart disease, asthma and cancer," Hedberg said. "Raising the legal sale age for tobacco products to 21 can reduce smoking rates and reduce tobacco-related deaths."

Help is available for anyone in Oregon ready to quit tobacco. Call Oregon's toll-free Quit Line at 800-QUIT-NOW (800-784-8669) or, for Spanish, 855-DEJELO-YA (855-335356-92), or visit https://www.quitnow.net/oregon or in Spanish, https://www.quitnow.net/oregonsp.

People who see a retailer selling tobacco products or inhalant delivery systems to someone younger than 21 can report the violation with the business name, address and other information to Tobacco.Inspections@state.or.us.

Learn more about Tobacco 21 at http://www.HealthOregon.org/tobaccoretailsales.

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