Oregon Health Authority officials—along with partners from counties, tribes and communities—visited nearly 2,000 grocery stores, pharmacies, gas stations and other tobacco retailers in Oregon to assess the industry’s retail marketing. A resulting report earlier this month criticized the industry for promoting its “deadly products” through colorful ads placed at children’s eye level and near ads for snacks that children like.
OHA says 50 percent of the retailers they visited had tobacco ads placed outside. Inside the stores, 20 percent placed tobacco products near the candy and toys, OHA stated.
E-cigarette flavors included "Pebbles Donuts" and "Tropical Fusion," among others. According to OHA, four out of five Oregon young people who have used tobacco started out by using flavored products.
“This drumbeat of promotion is intentional. It is designed to manipulate consumers, spark nicotine cravings and generate impulse tobacco purchases among people trying to quit,” the report said. “These ads also lure teens and young adults to a deadly product.”
The tobacco industry spends more than $100 million each year to market and advertise cigarette and smokeless tobacco products in Oregon, according to the report.
In Deschutes County, the report found 19,700 adults regularly smoke cigarettes; 8,340 people with a serious illness caused by tobacco; 278 tobacco-related deaths; $68.6 million spent on tobacco-related medical care; and $61 million in productivity losses due to premature tobacco-related deaths.
The report lists steps the state could take.
- Making tobacco retailers get a license to sell tobacco products as a way to better enforce the age requirement to buy tobacco products and limit the retailers near schools
- Raising the price of tobacco products through tax increases or through prohibiting the use of coupons for them
- Prohibiting the sale of flavored tobacco products
As of 2018, Oregon is one of 17 states where tobacco is only legally available to people over the age of 21.