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Multnomah County Tobacco Retailers License Applications Begin July 1

If your business is located in Multnomah County and sells tobacco or vaping products, you should be aware of a 2015 Multnomah County ordinance and the related Multnomah County Health Department rules that will become effective in July 2016.

Beginning on July 1, 2016, any retailer who sells tobacco, electronic cigarettes or vaping products in Multnomah County must obtain an annual license.  The license requirement applies to any person or business that sells those products, including but not limited to convenience stores, gas stations, bars, hotels, restaurants and music venues.

The Multnomah County Board of Commissioners passed the ordinance in November 2015 in an effort to reduce minors’ illegal access to tobacco and nicotine products.  The ordinance amends existing Multnomah County law that governs the licensing of tobacco retailers.  The new law includes tobacco, electronic cigarette and vaping retailers, and requires them to obtain an annual tobacco retail license in order to sell “tobacco products,” which are defined to include electronic cigarettes or vaping products that contain or deliver nicotine.  A retailer may only make tobacco products available to people who are the minimum age for tobacco sales and possession – that’s still 18 years old, in Oregon.  Retailers will continue to be required to examine a person’s ID if he or she appears to be under 27 years old.  Failure to check ID will result in sanctions.  Additionally, the ordinance provides that a violation of any tobacco control law – federal, state or local – is a violation of the tobacco retail licensing laws that may result in fines, civil penalties and license suspension.

In this era of food trucks, you should also know that the ordinance prohibits mobile tobacco product sales.  (Just in case you were thinking that a vape-truck was going to be the next big thing. Answer: No.)

A tobacco retail license is required for each address at which tobacco products are available from a retailer.  So, for example, if you have three gas stations, you’ll need a license for each location.  The license fee is $580 and each license will be valid for one year from the date that it is issued.  Like a liquor license, it must be displayed in a prominent and conspicuous place at the licensed premises and it can’t be transferred between people or premises.

Each business that has obtained a tobacco retailer license will be subject to at least one unannounced site-visit per year.  Enforcement is expected to begin in January 2017.  The fines and penalties increase progressively depending on the number of violations.  The first violation will result in a $500 fine and mandatory training.  Subsequent violations within a 60-month period will result in increased fines and license suspension of specified durations.

If your business also sells alcohol, be aware that violations of the tobacco retailer ordinance may be taken into account in liquor license enforcement.  The Multnomah County Department of Health, which will be administering the tobacco retail licensing program, intends to provide education and assistance to retailers to help them comply with the law.

You can find more information about the Multnomah County Tobacco Retail License, including the Tobacco Retail License Ordinance, the Multnomah County Health Department Tobacco Retail License Rules and the license application at https://multco.us/health/inspections-and-licensing/tobacco-retail-license.  Businesses will be able to apply for a tobacco retail license beginning on July 1, 2016.

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