The cities of Golden and Edgewater are two of nine Colorado communities that have enacted tobacco retailer licensing laws to protect youth from tobacco. Golden's law requires that its tobacco retailers have a license to sell non-cigarette tobacco products including, but not limited to, spit tobacco, cigars, cigarillos, snus, pipe tobacco and electronic smoking devices. The City of Edgewater's licensing law is the first in the state to include all forms of tobacco, including cigarettes.
Communities must stay vigilant in protecting youth from tobacco and standing up to the tobacco industry. Cigarettes are advertised most heavily in stores where adolescents shop. Given that youth visit convenience stores on average twice a week, it's no accident that 95% of Big Tobacco's $9 billion ad budget is spent in the retail setting on tactics such as product and advertising placement and pricing schemes. These tactics are known to influence youth towards tobacco use, thus contributing to increased initiation, experimentation and dependence. The influence of these tactics can be reduced by laws that include mandatory retail licensing.
According to the 2015 Healthy Kids Colorado Survey (HKCS), two out of three underage Colorado youth who attempted to purchase cigarettes were successful. Licensing tobacco retailers can help prevent illegal sales of tobacco to minors and reduce youth access to and use of tobacco. Licensing serves as a means to identify where tobacco products are being sold and better enforce all tobacco-related laws. It can also serve as a means to increase certain youth-specific protections, such as prohibiting self-service displays and limiting the number of tobacco retailers located near schools. Some communities include certain drug paraphernalia, such as pipes and rolling papers, to be covered by a licensing law.
Additional Colorado communities are considering tobacco retailer licensing laws. Lakewood community members recently expressed concerns about the problem of youth tobacco use at a recent City Council meeting. Colorado and federal agencies charged with conducting compliance checks of tobacco retailers show that the 2016 rate of illegal sales to minors in Lakewood is greater than the rate for Colorado overall.
Despite data showing a steady decrease in youth use of cigarettes and some other types of tobacco, the overall rate of youth tobacco use remains steady due to a sharp increase in e-cigarette and cigar use, products that are frequently flavored to attract youth. 2015 HKCS data shows that 46% of Colorado high school students have experimented with vaping, and 38% are regular tobacco (including e-cigarette) users.
Nicotine is a highly addictive, harmful drug, and the Surgeon General states that the nicotine in e-cigarettes and other tobacco products can prime the adolescent brain for addiction to other drugs. Additionally, e-cigarette cartridges may be filled with substances other than nicotine, serving as a new and potentially dangerous way to ingest other drugs. Both Golden and Edgewater's licensing laws include e-cigarettes to further protect youth from the harmful effects of nicotine.
Learn more about protecting Jefferson County youth from tobacco: