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New county license on tobacco, vaping sales begins

TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO - Beginning July 1, businesses that sell tobacco or vaping products must get a license from Multnomah County.Starting Friday, July 1, businesses selling tobacco, nicotine or vaping products will need a new license from Multnomah County.

The new annual fee is $580 and covers any business, including convenience stores, bars, hotels and restaurants.

“In the same way we work with restaurant and food cart owners to operate safely and legally, we will be working with retailers to provide the information and help they need,’’ said Joanne Fuller, director of the county’s Health Department.

Although selling cigarettes to minors has been illegal for decades, Oregon is one of the few states in the country that has no tobacco retail licensing and no way to hold businesses accountable. In November, county commissioners unanimously approved the license requirement after state and federal surveys showed that Multnomah County had some of the highest rates of illegal sales to children younger than 18 in the nation. During a federal compliance check in 2014, one in three Multnomah County retailers illegally sold tobacco to children younger than 18.

“Tobacco remains the No. 1 cause of preventable death in our county,’’ Fuller said. “Since most users started using before they were age 18, we see this as an important step in saving lives.”