Plaid Pantry's CEO Pushes to Bring Flavored Tobacco Ban to the Voters

Washington County is the first county in Oregon to prohibit the sale of flavored products.
Plaid Pantry convenience store logo

BEAVERTON, Ore. — Plaid Pantry's chief executive is working to put a recently enacted flavored tobacco ban in Washington County on the ballot.

CEO Jonathan Polonsky is circulating a petition to bring the ordinance to the voters in May. Supporters of the petition have until Jan. 31 to collect 10,000 signatures, according to Fox 12 Oregon.

In November, the Washington County Board of Commissioners approved a ban on the sale of flavored tobacco and vaping products across the county. With the move, it became the first in Oregon to prohibit the sale of flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes and flavored synthetic nicotine products.

The measure went into effect in December and enforcement begins Jan. 1, as Convenience Store News previously reported.

Specifically, the measure:

  • Prohibits the sale of any tobacco or synthetic nicotine product to any person under the age of 21;
  • Prohibits sales of any flavored tobacco or synthetic nicotine product in any retail establishment, and;
  • Prohibits coupons, discounts and price promotions for any tobacco product.

"The board heard compelling evidence that restricting access of flavored products results in fewer young people using addictive tobacco and nicotine substances as well as higher quit rates. Even though the vote was not unanimous, we clearly heard each commissioner express agreement that the use of tobacco substances is harmful and marketing strategies that aggressively target anyone in our community — especially young people and marginalized groups — are unacceptable," said Board Chair Kathryn Harrington.

"I'm confident that this step forward, along with the rollout of statewide tobacco retail licensing requirements, will serve to protect the health of all Washington County residents," Harrington added.

According to Polonsky, the new rule is hurting businesses.

"For retailers who sell tobacco products it is a big deal. Twenty percent of my revenue in my stores is derived from flavored tobacco because it's not only that purchase, it's the purchase they make along with that, so maybe it's a Red Bull or a Coke or whatever," Polonsky told Fox 12 Oregon.

In a September in op-ed piece in The Oregonian, he wrote that since Oregon passed a Tobacco 21 law four years ago, c-stores that sell tobacco have invested in technology and training to ensure employees have the tools they need to comply with the law. 

"Plaid Pantry, we are proud of our 98-percent compliance rate, based on our internal data of the state's inspections of our stores," he wrote.

Beaverton-based Plaid Pantries Inc. operates 107 stores from Salem, Ore., to Seattle.