In Victory for Kids over Big… | Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
sign up

In Victory for Kids over Big Tobacco, Multnomah County Commissioners Vote to End the Sale of Flavored Tobacco Products

Statement of Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
December 15, 2022

WASHINGTON, D.C. – By voting to end the sale of flavored tobacco products – including flavored e-cigarettes, menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars – the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners has taken bold action to protect kids from tobacco addiction, save lives and advance health equity. The commissioners deserve enormous credit for standing up to the tobacco industry and taking lifesaving action to end the industry’s predatory targeting of kids, Black Americans and other communities with flavored tobacco products. 

We applaud County Chair Deborah Kafoury and the entire Board of Commissioners for their leadership in protecting the health of Multnomah County kids and promoting health equity. This ordinance will crack down on the tobacco industry’s most pernicious tactic for luring and addicting kids – the marketing of flavored tobacco products. Research shows that 81% of kids who have ever used a tobacco product started with a flavored product. This ordinance will also help end the industry’s predatory targeting of Black communities with menthol cigarettes, which has taken a devastating toll on Black lives and health and is a major cause of health disparities.

As the most populous county in Oregon, Multnomah County is setting a terrific example for the entire state. Multnomah joins Washington Country in acting to end the sale of flavored tobacco products.

Flavored products have fueled the current epidemic of youth e-cigarette use, with nearly 12% of Oregon high school students currently using e-cigarettes. Nationwide, more than 2.5 million kids use e-cigarettes, and 85% of them use flavored products.

Menthol cigarettes have also been a favorite tobacco industry strategy for targeting Black Americans, Latinos, the LGBTQ community, and other communities. Half of all kids who ever try smoking start with menthol cigarettes. The evidence shows that menthol makes it easier for kids to start smoking and harder for smokers to quit. Because of the tobacco industry’s predatory marketing, 85% of Black smokers now smoke menthol cigarettes, compared to less than 10% in the 1950’s. Menthol cigarettes are a major reason why tobacco use is the number one cause of preventable death among Black Americans – claiming 45,000 lives every year – and why Black Americans have a harder time quitting smoking and are more likely to die from tobacco-related diseases like lung cancer, heart disease and stroke. 

In addition, cheap, flavored cigars – sold in hundreds of flavors like cherry dynamite, tropical twist and chocolate – have flooded the market in recent years and fueled the popularity of these products with kids. The 2022 National Youth Tobacco Survey shows that cigars are the second most popular tobacco product (after e-cigarettes) among all high school students and are especially popular among Black high school students.