Bend Leaders Lending Voice to State Tobacco Prevention Laws

Bend, Ore. – Bend-area health leaders and the Oregon Health Authority marked 20 years of tobacco prevention successes in Central Oregon Wednesday with the state announcing their strategies for the future, including raising the price of tobacco, defending the Indoor Clean Air Act and protecting kids from tobacco.

The event, held at the Central Oregon Intergovernmental Council (COIC) in Bend, celebrated Oregonians’ decision in 1996 to pass a ballot measure that increased the price of tobacco and dedicated a portion of tobacco tax revenue to prevention efforts.

These public health initiatives, backed by Oregon voters, aim to keep kids and young people from starting to use tobacco, and helping tobacco users quit. Since 1997 per capita cigarette pack sales have declined by more than 55 percent.

“The collaboration that is underway in Central Oregon is a model for other parts of the state, and what has been achieved in the region sets the bar for future collaboration and health improvement,” said Lillian Shirley, Oregon Health Authority Public Health Division director. “We’ve come a long way in 20 years, but there’s still work to be done. Tobacco is still the No. 1 preventable cause of death and disease in Oregon, responsible for more than 7,000 deaths each year.”

Event speakers, including Bend City Councilor Nathan Boddie, MD, thanked legislative champions and partners for their hard work over the years to keep Oregonians, particularly youth and young adults, safe from the harms of tobacco. Local high school students who are members of Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) spoke about the dangers of tobacco to their fellow classmates and Oregon youth in general.

Oregon has been a longtime leader in tobacco prevention. In 1998 Oregon launched the Tobacco Quit Line, the first state to offer over-the-phone help to tobacco users who want to quit, and in 2007 the state passed the Indoor Clean Air Act, a smokefree workplace law that included bars, taverns, restaurants, bingo halls and bowling centers. Other more recent statewide successes include passage of a state law making it illegal to smoke in a car with a minor present, and Oregon state parks going smokefree in 2014.