Ban on flavored tobacco products advances in Denver committee

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DENVER (KDVR) — The City and County of Denver is advancing a measure to ban flavored tobacco products.

Some argue the measure, which would include a ban on vape juice, would keep kids safer by helping keep the products out of schools. Others say the ban would be too broad, saying it would have a negative impact on small businesses and would hurt adult consumers.

The ordinance passed out committee without a hitch. Some advocates for tobacco sales are hoping the city considers a last-minute amendment before it goes through the final hurdles to become law.

“This is really narrowly tailored to flavored products, because we know it is the flavored products that are getting kids to start smoking and become lifelong smokers,” said Councilwoman Amanda Sawyer, a sponsor of the ordinance.

The measure does have some exceptions for premium cigars, hookah products and products proven by the Food and Drug Administration to help with smoking cessation.

“Premium cigars and pipe tobacco: what we find is that kids are not smoking premium cigars and pipe tobacco,” Sawyer said. “What we find is kids are not smoking premium cigars and pipe tobacco. In the same way that kids are not whipping a hookah out of their backpack to have a smoke in the middle of the school day, we see the same kind of a thing with premium cigars and pipe tobacco.”

But because the measure’s goal is aimed toward keeping the products away from kids, some opponents are asking the council to make room for one more exemption.

“We have what’s called an age-restricted amendment. We want to be treated like the marijuana shops,” said Joe Miklosi of Bridge Consulting, representing the Rocky Mountain Smoke Free Alliance. “So, when you enter the store, you’d have to show your ID through a thousand-dollar ID scanner. You’d have to have your ID at point-of-sale at the cash register, and we want strict guard rails to show we are only helping consumers.”

In Colorado, it is illegal for people under the age of 21 to buy and use vaping products already, but supporters say young people are easily finding workarounds.

“Whether it is that they are going into a store and their ID is not being checked, or whether it is they are giving money to a relative or friend who is 21 to go purchase those products for them, any of those kinds of things,” Sawyer said. “We see 21-plus stores don’t do anything. It’s not a successful way of stopping this from happening.”

If this passes, it would only apply to Denver. People could still get these products from surrounding areas and bring them back to Denver for use, but Sawyer said she feels it would cut off access for school kids.

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