The sale of flavored tobacco and nicotine products could soon be illegal in Colorado if lawmakers approve — and the governor signs — a bill banning their sale.
Internal Bill 22-1064 ban, effective July 1, the sale of all flavored tobacco and nicotine products, including vapes, e-cigarettes, menthol cigarettes, hookah, chewing tobacco and cigars, in Colorado .
Under the proposal, any retailer caught selling flavored tobacco or nicotine products would face the same penalties as a retailer caught selling to minors.
State Senator Kevin Priola, one of the bill’s sponsors, said he was inspired to take action after his son started vaping around age 14. – away from dumpsters to throw them away to prevent it from digging the vapes out of the bin.
“It’s everywhere. Our experience isn’t unique,” Priola said. “You look at the data and realize that a lot of these manufacturers — they’re using flavors to get young kids hooked.”
Among smokers aged 12 to 17, 81% said they started using flavored products and 79% said they use a product because it comes in the flavors they like, according to a to study by the Food and Drug Administration and the National Institutes of Health.
Another patron, Representative Jennifer Bacon, who recently served on the Denver school board for four years, said the presence of flavored tobacco and nicotine products is “overwhelming” in Denver schools.
“We’re really concerned about the number of kids getting addicted to nicotine from these flavors. I’ve seen the impact firsthand,” Bacon said. “We really hope to avert an impending public health crisis. “
Brian Fojtik, a Denver resident and representative of the National Association of Tobacco Outlets, said the ban is unnecessary because youth smoking has been declining for years.
In 2020, about 1 in 5 high school students and 1 in 20 college students used electronic cigarettes, according to the Centers for Disaster Control and Prevention. In 2021, use decreases to about 1 in 9 high school students and 1 in 35 middle school students.
“It’s a short-sighted approach,” Fojtik said. “Prohibition supporters do not protect children. They shamefully use children as political props, trying to use legitimate concern about youth vaping to ban adults from hundreds of products that young people don’t use and have nothing to do with vaping.
Fojtik argued that the ban would drive tobacco and nicotine users to purchase flavored products online or out of state, taking away Colorado’s tax revenue, which helps pay for programs including education for early childhood and public health initiatives.
If passed, the ban could also shut down hundreds of independent vape and tobacco shops across the state, critics of the bill have said.
Phil Guerin, owner of Myxed Up Creations in Denver, said he would lose at least 30% of his store’s business in the event of such a ban.
“There is a clear disconnect between the representatives and their constituents, the small businesses that the representatives pledge to support,” Guerin said. “Let’s focus on COVID and give all our children and teachers back their full strength. Then we can have a conversation, based on science and evidence, about how we can permanently address youth vaping prevention.
State Representative Kyle Mullica, another sponsor of the bill, said he is committed to working with business owners to help mitigate the effects of the ban, but he added that he should prioritize what is best for young people.
“What must come first is the health of our children,” Mullica said. “It’s a line, as sponsors and legislators, that we have to toe. Facts are facts, that is, our young people are becoming addicted to these products.
Last month, the Denver City Council passed a similar ban banning the sale of flavored tobacco products with exemptions for hookah, natural cigars, pipe tobacco and harm reduction tools. Mayor Michael Hancock then vetoed, marking only the second time Hancock has used his veto power against the council in his 10 years as mayor.
The bill’s sponsors said they were confident the bill would pass the legislature, attributing Hancock’s veto to the belief that flavor bans are a state issue. They said they were also waiting for support from Governor Jared Polis, as it would reduce health care costs.
The bill would allocate $10 million to the Preventive Services Division of the Department of Public Health and Environment, which would provide two-year grants to organizations providing comprehensive services in communities disproportionately affected by the targeted marketing of tobacco and nicotine.
Bacon and Mullica said the bill is not just about banning products, but about protecting communities that have been intentionally targeted by the tobacco and nicotine industry, including young people and communities of color.
“Real dollars and real resources are going to these communities that have always been targeted,” Mullica said. “We’re working on programs to try to make sure we’re helping people break that addiction.”