A judge in Oregon’s Washington County has ruled against the county’s 2021 ban on flavored tobacco products, meaning adults over 21 can still buy them.
Circuit Judge Andrew Erwin wrote in his opinion this week that the decision to disallow licensed retail sale of such products must come from the state, not county by county, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported.
“Certainly, the county has broad power to regulate how sales are made, but they cannot bar them entirely,” Erwin wrote.
Commissioners last November voted to ban the products to curb nicotine use among teenagers and young adults. County officials argued that flavors such as bubble gum hook young people, who buy the products from retailers who don’t check IDs.
The county just west of Portland asserted it had the authority to enact the ban under Senate Bill 587, a 2021 law that gave public health agencies power to regulate tobacco sales.
The first-in-Oregon ban went into effect in January but hasn’t been enforced.
Jonathan Polonsky, the CEO of convenience store chain Plaid Pantry, gathered enough signatures to put it on the ballot in Washington County. Other retailers challenged the ban in court.
Voters overwhelmingly upheld the measure in May but Erwin issued a preliminary injunction against it in July.
Washington County officials said in a written statement Wednesday they may appeal the decision.
Tony Aiello, attorney for the retailers who brought the suit, cheered the judge’s opinion but is preparing for a possible appeal, he said.
Jamie Dunphy, an Oregon lobbyist for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, said the group couldn’t be more disappointed.
In August, Multnomah County health officials in Portland said they were drafting a proposal to also try to ban the sale of flavored nicotine products.