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Business and Economy

You'll Soon Need to be 21 to Buy Tobacco in Portland

Sudipto Sarka
Flickr/Creative Commons

As of tomorrow, if you’re too young to drink, you’re too young to buy tobacco in Portland.

People can currently buy cigarettes and other tobacco products once they turn 18. Under the new law, they’ll have to be 21 to buy tobacco products including e-cigarettes.

Kristen Dow with the city’s public health division says for the next year her department will focus on letting store owners and the public know what’s happening.

“We will be working in the next year, really just educating, working with retailers to make sure they have all the information and all they need,” she says. “Of course we’ll be available for additional resources if they need them.”

After that she says the city will begin actively enforcing the rule.

Dow says studies have shown that making it illegal to sell tobacco products to people under 21 can lower use by up to 12 percent. She says part of the reason for that is social: Teenagers tend to be school-age when they first try smoking, so some of their peers will be 18 and legally able to buy cigarettes.

“It’s very unlikely that someone at the age of 16, when they’re trying their first cigarette, will know someone the age of 21 or be in the same social circles,” she says.

The City Council voted unanimously in June to adopt the new rule. Many owners of stores that sell tobacco products opposed it.