Douglas County fared better than the state average in the latest results of the Oregon Tobacco Retail Enforcement Inspection, conducted by the Oregon Health Alliance in January.
The enforcement was aimed at checking retailers on compliance with the new Oregon law that prohibits selling tobacco products or inhalant delivery systems to anyone under 21. The law raised the legal age to purchase tobacco products from 18 to 21.
Oregon's overall violation rate for retailers selling tobacco products and e-cigarettes to minors was 18.3 percent. Douglas County was better than the state rate with a 14.6 percent violation rate.
The county had 41 establishments that were checked by the Oregon Health Authority, for compliance with the law in selling cigarettes, cigarillos, e-cigarettes, or tobacco product devices to minors after the law began being enforced on Jan. 1 of this year.
A minor attempted to buy cigarettes in 26 stores in Douglas County and was able to purchase them in three of those stores. The minor tried to purchase e-cigarettes in 13 stores and was able to buy them in three of those.
The OHA report showed that Douglas County had an 11.5 percent violation rate in the sale of cigarettes, but a 23.1 percent violation rate for e-cigarettes.
Douglas Public Health Officer Dr. Bob Dannenhoffer said the county still has some work to do, but the results of the inspections were encouraging.
"I was happy that Douglas County did a bit better than the state average, so most of our tobacco retailers are doing exactly what we want them to do, which is to carefully check for ID," Dannenhoffer said. "The concern is that we weren't 100 percent perfect, because this is something that is truly easy and possible to get to 100 percent."
The OHA said the inspections were done in mid-January, and three stores, the Oak Street Market at 711 SE Oak St. in downtown Roseburg, Astro Gas at 171 S. Main St. in Winston and the Diamond Lake Market at 2796 Diamond Lake Blvd. in Roseburg sold cigarettes to a minor.
Diamond Lake Market was inspected in October before the age limit changed to 21, so the inspectors would have been enforcing the minimum legal sales age of 18 at that time.
The other three violations in Douglas County were businesses that sold e-cigarettes to a minor. they included the AM Market in Sutherlin, Mini Pet Mart in Roseburg and the AG Market and Cigs in Myrtle Creek.
"We want to congratulate those who've done it correctly and use them as role models that this can be done, and we need to continue to do enforcement activities on those places that don't do it," Dannenhoffer said.
Some of the most populous counties had some of the highest violation rates. Multnomah County, which includes a large portion of the Portland metropolitan area, was at 22.5 percent. Jackson County, in the Rogue Valley, was at 22 percent and Lane County had an 18.4 percent violation rate.
The highest violation rate in the state was Baker County, with 57 percent, although only seven stores were checked and four were in violation according to the report.
There were three counties that had a zero violation rate, including Harney, Gilliam and Malheur County, but Gilliam County had just one store checked. Harney County had only three stores inspected.
Last August, Gov. Kate Brown signed the law into effect that raised the required minimum age for a person to legally buy or obtain tobacco products. Enforcement of the law began on the first day of this year.
The Public Health Division of the Oregon Health Authority conducts 1,200 inspections annually from a pool of approximately 3,200 retailers. The Oregon State Police work with youth inspectors, who go into randomly selected stores and attempt to buy cigarettes, e-cigarettes and inhalant delivery system products.
The Public Health Division and State Police will continue to conduct random compliance checks and follow up with stores that have a record of violations. Clerks are fined $50 for making an illegal sale, and managers and owners can also be fined if they are onsite when the violation occurs.
To help insure compliance with the law, businesses that sell tobacco products and inhalant delivery systems must post signs prohibiting the sale of those products to anyone under age 21.