Denver bill raising age to buy tobacco moves forward

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DENVER – The Mile High City moved a step closer on Monday to raising the age to buy tobacco from 18 to 21. The proposed ordinance would also impose a licensing tax on tobacco stores.

City Council voted on Monday to publish the bill for consideration during next week’s council meeting. That move pushes the bill a step closer to reaching the mayor’s desk.

“I think that’s a great idea,” said one Denver woman. “I have six kids of my own, and I would like for that age to be raised.”

The move would force younger smokers to cross municipal lines to buy tobacco products.

“That’s going to kind of mess me up,” said Preston, an 18-year-old Denver smoker. “I just turned 18, and I’m finally legally allowed to buy stuff ... and then I’ll have to wait until I’m 21.”

If fully passed and signed by Mayor Michael Hancock, Denver would join other cities in Colorado that have already increased the buying age. The changes beg the question: Are Colorado state lawmakers gearing up to increase the age statewide? Some lawmakers say it’s time. Others say they would not support the change.

“Look, if you’re old enough to vote -- if you’re old enough to serve in the military and defend your country -- I think you should be old enough to buy cigarettes,” said Republican state Sen. Owen Hill of El Paso County.

If passed in Denver, stores selling tobacco would need be licensed. The new license creates a controversial tax of a $250 application fee and an annual $500 store licensing fee. The proposed ordinance would also require new stores to be at least 1,000 feet away from daycare centers, schools and city recreation centers. It would also impose a distance regulation of new tobacco stores being at least 500 feet away from other tobacco retailers.

Councilman Kevin Flynn spoke about the proposal during Monday's meeting. He indicated that raising the age has a lot of support, but he voiced concerns about the physical distance limitations.

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