Oregon Wants To Make Cigarettes A Prescribed-Only Controlled Substance
January 25, 2013

Oregon Wants To Make Cigarettes A Prescribed-Only Controlled Substance

Brett Smith for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

Smoking in Oregon could become a lot more difficult if new proposed legislation becomes law.

State legislator Mitch Greenlick has introduced a bill that would make nicotine a Schedule III controlled substance–putting the drug alongside popularly abused substances like anabolic steroids, ketamine, and Hydrocodone.

Like other Schedule III substances, nicotine products, including chewing tobacco, nicotine patches and gums, would only be available through a doctor´s prescription, according to the bill, which cites the state´s authority to regulate various drugs.

"The State Board of Pharmacy may adopt rules placing requirements and limitations on the sale or transfer of products containing nicotine," it reads, adding that “(a) person commits the crime of unlawful possession of nicotine if the person knowingly possesses more than 0.1 milligram of nicotine.”

The bill also stipulates that offenders could face up to one year in prison, a $6,250 fine or both. Law enforcement agencies would be allowed to inspect all products that they suspect might contain nicotine, according to the proposal.

The bill has been denounced by smokers, non-smokers, and cigarette vendors as not passable or non-feasible. Some observers said if such a bill were to pass; it would prompt the selling of ℠black market´ cigarettes across the state.

Greenlick acknowledged the political realities and logistical difficulties associated with passing and enforcing the bill. However, he said he hopes the proposal adds to the discussion over regulating tobacco products.

"To have a substance that addictive for sale over the counter just seems wrong," he told Wilamette Week, an alternative weekly from Portland. "If it doesn´t pass, I hope that it will enhance the probability of an increase in the cigarette tax passing.”

Societal changes and heavier smoking regulations have had an effect on Oregon, as the state has seen a 48 percent decrease in per-capita cigarette consumption from 1996 to 2009.

Despite this reduction, the average Oregon smoker spends $1,825 on cigarettes each year. According to the most recent Oregon Department of Public Health statistics, 17.5 percent of the state population smoke tobacco daily, a fact that contributes to the state´s annual smoking-related death toll, which was pegged at 7,000 in 2007.

The 77-year-old Greenlick, a Democrat from Portland, has been working in Oregon´s capitol for a decade and he currently co-chairs the state´s House Health Care Committee. He is also the founder of Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research Foundation Hospitals.

No stranger to controversy, Greenlick made headlines just a few days ago when he suggested that a state committee should look into the hiring process behind the University of Oregon´s recent selection of Mark Helfrich as the school´s new football coach.

According to the legislator, the school did not follow the spirit of the state´s diversity law, which mandates that public universities interview at least one minority before hiring any head coach. The school reportedly did interview former Stanford coach Pep Hamilton, an African-American, for the position.

“I think they gamed the system," Greenlick said, describing the hiring process to The Oregonian. "I think they followed the letter of the law, but not the spirit of the law."