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Washington County's flavored tobacco ban will be enforced starting Jan. 1

Leaders said they passed the ordinance to address the youth smoking epidemic. However, some businesses feel the measure misses the point.

WASHINGTON COUNTY, Ore. — Starting Jan. 1, 2022, several new laws are kicking in. 

For some stores in Washington County, that means clearing off their shelves. County leaders banned all flavored tobacco — including vape pens and menthol cigarettes — as an effort to keep the products away from children and teens. 

Enforcement of the ordinance begins at the start of the new year. 

Because of the ban, Oregon Vape Shoppe in Hillsboro is closing its doors after seven years, selling the last of their product at a discount.

"This is what we have left, we've whittled down four walls of shelving, and e-liquid down to this," said owner Christopher Ferreira. "Flavored vapor products, because we're a vape only store, were over 90% of our business model. I can't survive on less than 10%, just selling the devices or tobacco only."

RELATED: From hate crimes to cold medicine, many new Oregon laws take effect Jan. 1

Back in November, the Board of County Commissioners voted 3 to 2 to ban the sale of flavored tobacco. The ordinance was the first of its kind in the state. 

Gwyn Ashcom, Washington County's tobacco prevention coordinator, issued KGW this statement Thursday afternoon:

"Tobacco remains the number one cause of preventable death. Flavors mask the natural harshness of tobacco, making it easier to continue to use. We are proud to be the first county in Oregon to protect our community members from the harms of flavored tobacco with Ordinance 878."

However, Ferreira said he, and other retailers, don't sell to people under the age of 21. He feels shops like his have been unfairly targeted.

"It’s an overly strict ordinance," he said. "They played parent overseer, and thought that by banning just the flavored product that they were going to get rid of the issue. What they are doing is only banning the sale of this product, so the children that they are trying to save are still going to get this product."

Jonathan Polonsky, the CEO of Plaid Pantry, said he believes voters should have a chance to vote on the ban.

"We felt pretty strongly that something that impactful that was done at a county level, not a state level, voters should have a right to chime in on it and not have it be decided by five people," Polonsky said. "So I started a petition to try and move it to a vote, which would take place in May."

Polonsky said he has two dozen stores in Washington County, and while his business may only take a partial hit due to the ban, it impacts other small, independent businesses in the community. So far, he said they're up to 7,000 signatures, but need 10,000 total.

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