PRINEVILLE, OR -- Oregon Governor Kate Brown signed a new law that raises the required minimum age to legally buy tobacco from 18 to 21.
Kris Williams, Tobacco Prevention and Education coordinator for Crook County Health Department says it took several years' worth of effort from agencies, individuals, and organizations across the state to get this law passed, and she hopes it will keep more kids from getting started smoking. "Crook County has historically had a very high tobacco use rate among not only our adults, but our youth as well. We have 68 tobacco-related deaths annually in Crook County, unfortunately, and so for us to be able to have a Tobacco 21 law, it's really huge for us."
In Crook County, almost 14% of eighth graders and nearly 35% of 11th graders have reported using tobacco products, so Williams worked for over a year to get this law passed in an attempt to bring those percentages down. "The key thing here is that we're reducing youth access to tobacco, and it's a slow process... down the road, what we're hoping to do, is reduce the effects and costs of tobacco. Tobacco in Crook County costs 13.6 million dollars annually, just in medical-related costs."
Williams says a several-pronged approach is what's needed to really help smokers of all ages, but especially, the young ones, quit. She adds that an effective comprehensive plan "...would include tobacco retail licensing, so you have the enforcement piece, as well as education, tobacco cessation. The Crook County Court, just today, passed an ordinance that will go into effect in 90 days, to require tobacco retailers in Crook County to post the Oregon tobacco quit line information at point of sale."
Governor Brown signed the Tobacco 21 legislation into law last week and it applies to all tobacco including hookahs, e-cigarettes, and flavored vaping products.