PENDLETON:  Tobacco sales, permit is a work in progress

PENDLETON: Tobacco sales, permit is a work in progress

The Umatilla County Public Health Department has been going to city councils, asking if they support in principle a $400 annual tobacco sales permit for businesses who sell tobacco or vaping products. Public Health Director Joseph Fiumara says the questions being asked by those city councils are helping his department refine the proposal.

“Maybe they support the concept, but they don’t like how we’re planning to do it,” he said. “So, just about every time we have a visit with a city council, whether we have a vote or not, we’ve been making adjustments and edits.”

The money would be used to fund education and enforcement programs for the businesses in an attempt to better police the sale of those products to people younger than 21. County officials have expressed the opinion that the Oregon Liquor Control Commission has not made inspecting tobacco outlets a major enforcement priority.

Umatilla County is the highest in the state for youths’ use of e-cigarettes, second-highest for those under 21 using smokeless tobacco, and third in the state for the use of any tobacco product among young people.

At its most recent presentation, the Pendleton City Council voted to support the proposal 4 to 3. Fiumara said that questions at that meeting from the people who voted no are as important to the department as getting an endorsement is.

“We ended up with some adjustments off of that to address some of the concerns that those who voted against it had raised,” he said.

Fiumara said that, in addition to Pendleton, Pilot Rock, Athena, Echo, and Stanfield are among those that voted approval. The idea is still being discussed in Hermiston, and only Milton-Freewater has said no. Once all of the city councils in the county have weighed in, health officials will finalize an approach and ask the Umatilla County Board of Commissioners to endorse the plan. It will then have to be presented to each of the city councils again for final approval.