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DENVER (KDVR) — Mayor Michael Hancock issued a veto Friday on a flavored tobacco ban approved by city council on Dec. 6.

The ban on flavored tobacco and accessories, approved in an 8-3 vote, was slated to begin in 2023, pending Hancock’s signature.

Hancock spoke with FOX31 on Friday, detailing his decision to veto the legislation.

“I want the public to understand I share the same objective that this bill promoted, but to do it in Denver, it would have only been, in my eyes, symbolic,” Hancock said. “Kids could have still crossed the street to Aurora and purchased the product. Businesses were going to be hurt because people would go across the street to procure the product, as opposed to coming into their store where it would be banned, and that to me is just not responsible legislation.”

The measure’s main sponsor, Councilwoman Amanda Sawyer, said she had been hearing about the potential for a veto.

“Disappointed, yes, but surprised, no,” Sawyer said. “When I spoke to the mayor earlier today, he and I talked about the potential for other options moving forward. And although we’ve been working on this for a year or so, you know some of those options could have absolutely been pursued by now and haven’t been, but I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to find a good partnership moving forward.”

Hancock said he isn’t sure what will happen Monday, where the City Council will have the decision to override his veto. The council will need 9 votes to do so.

“I hope that the veto holds,” he said. “In the meantime, we’re going to go to work, regardless of what city council does.”

Vape shop owners plan to keep speaking out between now and Monday, hoping to sway council members who may be on the fence.

“I was extremely excited. I think the mayor was extremely wise in his decision,” said Phil Guerin, Myxed Up Creations owner. “I’m glad to see that the process has played out the way that it has, but I am extremely concerned of what could happen, the possibilities. This has not gone away even though the mayor has vetoed this.”

Not everyone was surprised.

Hancock writes veto letter to council

Hancock issued this statement on the veto:

“I share with the sponsors of this ordinance the desire and goal to reduce youth nicotine use in our city, especially youth vaping, which has become increasingly prevalent. Previously, we’ve taken steps together to reduce youth nicotine use, including raising the purchase age to 21, instituting a new tobacco retail store license and enhancing enforcement efforts. However well intentioned, this ordinance falls short. We can work on this in a more collaborative way and we can also move to enhance our existing regulatory framework, in addition to pursuing a broader strategy by acting state-wide or at least regionally. The health of our children is of critical importance – my goal is not to stop this conversation with this veto, my goal is to broaden it.”

Hancock also sent a letter regarding the veto to city council.

“However, while well-intentioned – and again, we share in the goal of this legislation – there are several
flaws in this ordinance that I believe should prevent it from being enacted,” Hancock said.

Here’s why the mayor said the ban falls short:

• As we advocated for with our COVID response, protective actions for public health are only as
effective as the breadth of their coverage. If we have a mask-wearing order in Denver, but
Jefferson, Adams and Arapahoe counties do not, our shield looks more like a net. As I said prior
to introduction of this bill, if we are to pursue a ban of this nature, it should be done, preferably,
through the state Legislature and apply across Colorado, or at the very least across the metro
area in coordination with our metro area city and county partners. Denver is one of dozens of
cities in our metro area, and absent similar bans in our neighboring communities, it is not a
prohibitive enough barrier if our youth are simply able to travel across Denver’s border to the
nearest convenience store and obtain flavored tobacco products. We cannot appropriately
address the public health impacts of youth tobacco use if that public health response occurs
only in Denver.

• Many convenience stores receive a significant portion of their revenue from the sale of flavored
tobacco products. For many other retail stores, it is their entire business model. Many of these
businesses are small and minority owned. If we were to institute this ban only within our
jurisdiction, many local businesses and business owners would experience a severe drop in their
income, some may choose to locate to other jurisdictions where such a ban is not in place, and
others would have to close their businesses entirely, leaving their employees out of a job. This
economic disruption will be felt by Denver alone. Moreover, providing an exemption for natural
cigars and hookah lounges puts us in a position of not only picking winners and losers in this
ban, but also raises equity concerns that certain businesses and residents should not face the
burdens this ban will place on others.

In response to the mayor’s veto, councilmembers Amanda Sawyer and Debbie Ortega said the mayor is choosing “profit over people.”

We are disappointed in this outcome, but we don’t think anyone in Denver will be surprised to hear that our Mayor chose profit over people. Make no mistake, this is public health issue. Departments and Agencies make enforcement rules in their policies and procedures, and they work for the Mayor, not Council. If the Mayor believes increased enforcement would be effective to address this epidemic, those changes could have taken place at any time. So far, he has chosen not to do anything, but we appreciate his partnership in continuing this discussion. That said, this veto is part of the legislative process, and we look forward to another Council vote on Monday night.