Dillon takes next step in increasing age requirements, licensing restrictions for nicotine sales
DILLON — The days of teenagers buying cigarettes and Juul pods may be numbered in Summit County as local governments work to curb youth nicotine use in the area.
On Tuesday evening, the Dillon Town Council voted unanimously to increase from 18 to 21 the minimum age to purchase nicotine products along with implementing new licensing regulations for nicotine retailers in town. The ordinance, which will return to the council for a second reading and public hearing later this month, could represent the first domino to fall as towns across the county work to pass changes to their own regulations.
“This is a countywide effort,” said Carri McDonnell, Dillon’s finance director and the town’s representative on the county’s nicotine task force. “While we may be the first to approve the first reading of our ordinance, the other towns in the county are also going through this process. … It appears as if we will all be doing similar licensing, similar fees and raising the age to 21. It’s been a joint effort.”
If passed, the new ordinance would raise the minimum purchase age for all nicotine products and accessories to 21 — including everything from cigarettes and vaporizers to chewing tobacco and paraphernalia like rolling papers. The change in age is meant to help prevent kids from getting their hands on the products, an issue that largely spurred the county’s greater debate on nicotine products earlier this year.
Data from the 2017 Healthy Kids Colorado Survey showed that more than 40% of Summit High School students had used electronic cigarettes in the past 30 days, considerably more than the state average of 27%. Since the creation of the county’s task force, high school students with the Youth Empowerment Society of Summit have been staunch supporters of the change, noting a drastic increase in vaping among students in recent years.
“The concern with this whole thing is the gift-wrapping of these products, which I think is partially the cause and partially not, and keeping it out of the hands of kids,” Dillon Councilman Mark Nickel said. “If that’s what we’re doing, let’s do it.”
Frisco already has agreed to join the intergovernmental agreement with the county and will consider ordinances on minimum age requirements and new licensing regulations for nicotine retailers Aug. 27.
Silverthorne’s age and licensing ordinance will be presented to the council Aug. 14, with a second reading Aug. 28. The town also will consider joining the intergovernmental agreement Aug. 28.
Breckenridge will consider age and licensing ordinances, along with the intergovernmental agreement Aug. 13.
County voters will have the ultimate say on Election Day, Nov. 3, in determining whether the proposed nicotine tax increases will be passed.
The other portion of the ordinance deals with licensing of nicotine retailers in town. The ordinance would require each retailer to acquire an annual license from the town. The fee for the license would be set in October before the change goes live and likely would be $500 to $600. McDonnell said there are four nicotine retailers in town, but she noted that because of the language in the ordinance, the town’s three marijuana dispensaries might also be forced to acquire the additional license.
“This is licensing for any nicotine or tobacco products,” McDonnell said. “But the definition — which is why we think marijuana shops are going to have to be licensed as well — is anything that allows you to smoke. So the vaping products, rolling papers are all included in the definition. It wasn’t our original intent, but it probably takes us to where we’re going to have to license marijuana shops, as well.”
The fees from licensing, expected to range from about $2,000 to $2,400 a year, will go toward the cost of administration and enforcement. To that end, the ordinance also gives the town’s police department the authority to make unannounced inspections of licensed locations to determine compliance with the town’s code. Any violations of the code could be grounds for suspension or revocation of the license depending on the nature of the incident, prior violations and other variables. Violators also could get slapped with a criminal offense.
If passed, the new restrictions would go into effect Nov. 1.
In addition to towns around the county exploring increases to minimum age requirements and new licensing regulations, the county is also planning on pushing a new sales tax increase on all nicotine products on the November ballot. The tax would include $4 per pack of cigarettes plus a 40% tax on all other nicotine products that would increase by 10% each year until it reaches parity with the cigarette tax. In order to receive revenue from the proposed tax, towns would have to enter an intergovernmental agreement with the county. Frisco was the first to agree to sign on to the agreement last month, and Dillon will have its chance during its next council meeting Aug. 20.
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