Small Denver vape shops worry age change to 21 would put them out of business

DENVER -- A Denver proposal to ban people younger than 21 from buying tobacco products has people like Johann Gottschalk, who managers the Hush Vapor Lounge, worried.

“First of all, we’d be losing me. I’m only 19 years old. I wouldn’t have a job,” Gottschalk said. “A lot of my customers that come in here are right around the age between 18 to 20. I’d say today about 40 percent of my customers are that young age.”

The Denver Department of Public Health and Environment says the rise in use of electronic cigarettes among teenagers is a big concern.

“Lung cancer being a leading cause of death is something that we can prevent,” said Deputy Director Ann Cecchine-Williams. “We believe that keeping tobacco and nicotine products away from youth is going to help them live longer lives, have less chronic illness, you know, prevent their journey to becoming a smoker.”

Bigger tobacco-based businesses like Smoker Friendly, which is based in Boulder, believe this is bad for business. In a statement to FOX31, a spokesperson said:

“Adults age 18-20 should have the right to purchase and consume legal tobacco products. These same adults have the privilege of voting in our national and local elections, they serve in our US Military, they are of age to marry, the are of age to be convicted and serve jail time. Yet they aren’t qualified in the eyes of the Denver City Council to make a decision to consume a legal commodity. In localities where age 21 has passed, we have seen a decline of 9 percent of sales, all of these sales produce tax revenue for our state and each local municipality.

We own and operate 60 stores in Colorado and employ over 200 people, 6 of those locations are in the city of Denver. It is naïve for the city to think they will eliminate tobacco use by these adult consumers, when cities all around can continue to serve 18-20 year [olds] legally.”

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