Summit County towns collectively sign off on new restrictions for nicotine and tobacco sales
FRISCO — The towns around the county have collectively decided to tighten the restrictions on the sale of nicotine and tobacco products in the area.
Earlier this week, Frisco and Silverthorne officially signed off on new ordinances to address licensing of tobacco retailers and minimum age requirements to purchase nicotine products, joining the towns of Breckenridge and Dillon that approved the new measures last month.
“I think it’s exciting to see the collaborative effort we’ve had in our community,” said Amy Wineland, director of the Summit County Public Health Department. “All the towns came through in terms of really seeing this as a public health issue and a way we could make a huge difference in our public health, especially for our youth, in implementing evidence-based strategies that do curb usage.”
The conversation around nicotine and tobacco use has been growing for the past couple of years after the 2017 Healthy Kids Colorado Survey — conducted by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment — revealed that students at Summit High School were using nicotine products at a surprising rate, particularly through vaporizers.
According to the report, more than 40% of Summit High students reported using an electronic cigarette within the past 30 days, compared with 27% for the rest of the state. Similarly, more than 73% of students said it would be easy to get their hands on an e-cigarette or vape pen, compared with 58% in the rest of the state. Summit students also reported slightly higher rates of cigarette smoking than the rest of the state.
Summit officials were given a lifeline of sorts to address the problem earlier this year, when the Colorado Legislature passed a bill that gave local governments authority to regulate nicotine products in their own jurisdictions. Towns in Summit jumped at the opportunity — pushed forward by representatives with the county’s public health department and students with the Youth Empowerment Society of Summit — to make some changes.
The new ordinances will raise the minimum age requirement to purchase nicotine products from 18 to 21 throughout the county. The ordinances also implement licensing for nicotine retailers along with establishing licensing fees, prohibitions and renewal conditions as well as outlining compliance requirements and potential punishments for establishments that violate the new codes. The ordinances for Breckenridge, Silverthorne and Dillon will go into effect Nov. 1 while the Frisco ordinance will go into effect Jan. 1.
“It’s a huge win for the community’s health and for the health of our youth,” Wineland said. “I’m really proud of the community we live in and that our elected officials have seen that they can make a huge difference and impact in this way.”
Of note, as towns in the county move forward with their own nicotine and tobacco measures, they’re also preparing for a November vote that could add additional taxes to nicotine products. During the next election, the county is putting a measure on the ballot to increase taxes to $4 per pack of cigarettes along with a 40% tax on all other tobacco and nicotine products that would increase by 10% annually for four years. If passed by voters, the new tax would go into effect Jan. 1.
In order for the towns to collect revenue on the proposed tax, they’re required to enter into an intergovernmental agreement with Summit County. As of Tuesday night, all four towns have signed into the agreement.
While the decision to move forward with new regulations was ultimately in the hands of elected town staff, officials also lauded the community’s youths — particularly the Youth Empowerment Society — for their work in making the new restrictions a reality.
“They’ve been incredibly articulate and passionate about this work, accompanying us to council meetings and sharing their stories,” Wineland said. “Their experiences are what has driven this initiative. I don’t know if we’d be here without the voices of our youth. It’s important to recognize them for their efforts in making an impact for themselves, their peers and for generations to come in our community. It’s exciting to see them make such a difference.”
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