Lane County working to raise tobacco age to 21

Lane County Public Health said the ordinance will also cover vaping products. (SBG Photo)

EUGENE, Ore. - Lane County could be the first county in Oregon to raise to 21 the legal age for tobacco purchase and consumption.

The board of commissioners on Tuesday directed county staff to draft an ordinance raising the age at which an individual can purchase tobacco products.

Lane County Public Health said the ordinance will also cover vaping products.

Spokesman Jason Davis said surveys found 4 percent of 11th graders reported vaping in 2013.

In 2015, 22 percent - more than 1 in 5 high school junior - reported using vaping products.

"That's an exponential increase. We've got to do something about it," Davis said. "And overall tobacco usage has jumped (...) from 17 to 29 percent. That's unacceptable."

County staff cited studies that found 95 percent of smokers picked up the habit before turning 21. Another study predicted that raising the minimum legal age to 21 could cut smoking by 12 percent.

"I'd like to underscore the fact that we're not just talking about protecting our kids here," Davis said. "We're also talking about protecting our entire community (...) We have just far too much chronic illness in our community. This protects them. This seeks to make them healthier."

The county plans to meet with cities and retailers about the plan this summer.

A draft ordinance could be available for a vote by this fall.


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