From Statesman Journal
By Saerom Yoo
Oregon – Public health advocates and tobacco retailers clashed Tuesday at the Oregon State Capitol, as they gave testimony on a bill that would require tobacco and e-cigarette product retailers to be licensed by the state.
Retailers are supporting a compromise bill that would put most licensing power in the state’s hands, but some public health advocates want local jurisdictions to have the ability to place additional restrictions on stores.
Licensing tobacco retailers is a common policy used to enforce existing laws, including curbing sales to minors. Oregon is one of a handful of states that don’t require tobacco retailers to be licensed, and has the highest rate of sales to minors in the country, advocates say.
The licensing fees would support enforcement and education efforts, as well as help the state keep track of tobacco and e-cigarette vendors.
Senate Bill 1559, sponsored by Sens. Laurie Monnes Anderson, D-Gresham, and Elizabeth Steiner Hayward, D-Beaverton, is the result of compromises made between public health advocates and the retail industry, they said at the Senate health care committee hearing.
While the retail industry wanted one statewide licensing system and to limit local government’s authority to place other restrictions on stores, public health advocates said counties and cities should have the option of barring pharmacies from selling tobacco products and to restrict tobacco sales within certain distances from schools.
However, Monnes Anderson and Steiner Hayward said the bill was the result of compromise that will allow it to pass. They said the greater good was to pass an imperfect bill.
She said it was embarrassing that Oregon was so behind on this policy, and that even with the compromises, SB 1559 is a good bill that will protect children.
The bill was held over for Thursday’s committee meeting.
Anti-tobacco advocates on Tuesday also lobbied for raising the minimum age for tobacco purchases to 21 from 18, which Hawaii and a number of cities across the country have adopted.
Student and adult advocates planned to spend Tuesday and Wednesday speaking with legislators about the issue, although there is no bill this session.
Raising the age limit would help keep tobacco products out of high schools, where younger teens may access tobacco through seniors, students said.