Opinion: Washington County’s proposed vape restrictions take…

127 points

A proposed ban in entrance of the Washington County Board of Commissioners would bar comfort shops from promoting flavored tobacco and vape merchandise. Concentrating on retailers which have a excessive compliance price of checking IDs is the improper approach to handle the issue of minors smoking, the creator writes. (AP Picture/Nam Y. Huh)The Plain Vendor

Jonathan Polonsky

Polonsky is CEO of Beaverton-based Plaid Pantries, Inc., which operates 107 shops and employs greater than 700 folks in Oregon.

Since Oregon raised the minimal age for tobacco gross sales from 18 to 21 4 years in the past, comfort shops promoting tobacco have invested in expertise and coaching to make sure workers have the instruments they should adjust to the regulation. Each time a buyer makes an attempt to buy a tobacco, e-cigarette or comparable product, clerks know to examine and scan consumers’ IDs to confirm their ages. That is commonplace working process for our shops and comfort retailer operators throughout the state.

Based on the Oregon Well being Authority, greater than 4 out of 5 retailers are checking IDs. At Plaid Pantry, we’re pleased with our 98% compliance price, primarily based on our inner information of the state’s inspections of our shops. Nonetheless, some members of the Washington County Board of Commissioners consider that younger persons are getting their arms on vape merchandise at comfort shops.

At their Sept. 21 assembly, commissioners are scheduled to contemplate banning the gross sales of flavored tobacco and vape merchandise at law-abiding, regulated and established companies like Plaid Pantry. Ordinance 878 would limit the gross sales of those merchandise to companies that solely serve these 21 years and older, comparable to bars and vape or smoke outlets. This regulation signifies that nobody, no matter age, can purchase menthol cigarettes or wintergreen snuff or vanilla pipe tobacco at their native comfort retailer. Contemplating that bars are unlikely to hold a big selection of vape merchandise, people will as an alternative need to make a particular journey to one among fewer than 40 vape outlets within the county to purchase flavored tobacco merchandise. How does it make sense to take away authorized grownup merchandise from my cabinets, the place we now have an A+ report card, and funnel them to a really small group of institutions with considerably decrease compliance observe data, in line with OHA’s 2020 Oregon Tobacco Enforcement Report?

This regulation does nothing to unravel the foundation of the issue ­– unregulated artificial vape juice concoctions like bubble gum and cotton sweet that attraction to minors. Accountable producers and Oregon retailers, like Plaid Pantry, don’t promote merchandise that mimic these flavors. The county’s ban would solely damage law-abiding retailers who promote flavored merchandise meant to provide grownup customers options, not in contrast to different product strains comparable to flavored onerous seltzers.

Folks have requested me how a lot a flavored tobacco gross sales ban would have on my general revenues. There are 24 Plaid Pantry shops in Washington County. I don’t have a look at the associated fee when it comes to {dollars} however when it comes to jobs. With roughly 21% of my revenues linked to the gross sales of flavored tobacco merchandise, I must cut back my labor prices and should have to shut shops, which implies shedding folks. However native mother and pop retailer house owners may even be hit onerous and lots of of them don’t converse English as their first language. Commissioners could by no means hear from them. I can guarantee you they’re extremely involved concerning the viability of the companies they faithfully nurture day in and time out, if this ordinance passes.

If commissioners need to stop and finish the usage of tobacco and vape merchandise by younger folks, they need to spend money on teaching programs and crack down on the illicit market the place criminals don’t examine IDs. Comfort retailer operators care deeply about their clients and their communities, which has by no means been extra obvious than throughout this pandemic. They’re greater than prepared to work with county officers to determine options like making a registry of FDA-approved merchandise that they will promote. Commissioners shouldn’t penalize accountable retailers and workers who’re proud to be on the entrance strains preventing the identical combat.

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