Aspen moving forward with ban on all flavored nicotine products despite pushback
Aspen City Council will continue to move forward with a full ban of all flavored tobacco products, despite significant pushback from retailers who sell the products.
A majority of council on Monday during a work session gave staff direction to continue with an ordinance banning both tobacco and vaporizing products that have flavors.
The move is to prevent teenagers from getting a hold of e-cigarettes or other flavored nicotine products that are attractive because of the taste.
After council agreed in March for staff to craft an ordinance that bans the sale of all flavored nicotine products in Aspen, including vaping liquids, flavored cigarettes and cigars and chewing tobacco, city officials reached out to area businesses to get their feedback.
“When we met with retailers we were met with some pretty significant resistance,” C.J. Oliver, the city’s environmental health and sustainability director, told council.
Retailers said the city’s $3 tax on cigarettes and changing the legal age to buy tobacco and nicotine products to 21 have curbed sales and the goal to limit access to teens has been met.
“They saw implementing a full flavor ban as an unnecessary step in protecting youth health as they didn’t experience underage customers attempting to purchase other flavored tobacco products, such as flavored tobacco or menthol cigarettes,” Oliver wrote in a memo to council. “They did note that these other flavored tobacco products make up a significant portion of their sales to adult customers which they believe to be the intent of passing such an ordinance.”
Councilman Adam Frisch was in the minority of advancing a full ban until a larger conversation with local retailers has occurred.
“I think we owe them a conversation,” he said. “I think we owe our business community who are trying to do the right thing.”
Interim City Manager Sara Ott noted that the city already has had the conversation with retailers and the feedback is they want to sell flavored tobacco to adults.
Michael Haisfield, who owns and operates the Shell gas station known as Local’s Corner, already had pulled vaping liquids and devices from his shelves in an effort to protect youth.
But menthol cigarettes and other flavored tobacco products are still available to adults older than 21.
“I am somewhat reluctant to tell someone who is over 21 they can’t buy flavored tobacco,” said Councilman Ward Hauenstein, who ultimately agreed to continue with the full ban in order to protect youth, but added that he is sensitive to the revenue loss for retailers.
Councilwoman Ann Mullins said it’s about young people’s health, not bottom lines.
“I would rather protect the kids than cigarette sales,” she said.
Council had the option to create an ordinance that only bans the sale of flavored vaping liquids.
“My job up here is to protect the youth, adults can do whatever they want,” Mullins said. “I don’t think we have any choice but to do the comprehensive plan.”
Several people who work in the health care industry and public health agencies spoke to council about the rapid addiction teenagers acquire once they’ve been exposed to nicotine products that lure them with flavors like bubble gum.
Council will consider an ordinance for the full ban later this month, with a second reading and public hearing to follow.
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