Tobacco is the No. 1 preventable cause of death in Colorado and the U.S. It kills 5,100 people in Colorado each year and more than 480,000 Americans nationwide. We also face the alarming new challenge because of the youth e-cigarette epidemic. Youth e-cigarette use increased by 78 percent last year, and Colorado has one of the highest rates of any state. Increasing the legal age for the sale of tobacco products – including e-cigarettes – to age 21 will help reduce smoking among young people and save lives.
Tobacco companies admit that increasing the legal sale age for tobacco threatens their profits — a Philip Morris document stated, “Raising the legal minimum age for cigarette purchase to 21 could gut our key young adult market (17-20)…” No wonder they will do whatever they can to fight a tobacco sale age of 21.
- Tobacco Impacts Denver and Its Kids
In Colorado, 7% of high school students still smoke – that’s 19,900 kids. But 26.2% of high school students in the state use e-cigarettes. 1,900 young Coloradans become regular smokers every year, and 91,000 Colorado kids alive now will ultimately die prematurely from smoking if current trends continue. Tobacco also costs Colorado $1.89 billion annually in health care bills.
- The 18-21 Age Range is a Critical Time
Tobacco companies target adolescents and young adults because they know that’s when most users become addicted to tobacco. About 95 percent of adult smokers began smoking before they turned 21. Raising the tobacco sale age will counter industry efforts to target young adults when many move from experimenting with tobacco to regular smoking.
- New State Law Makes Tobacco 21 Feasible
Passage of HB 19-1033 means localities will no longer be penalized for cracking down on tobacco use, including raising the tobacco sale age to 21 or requiring tobacco retail licensure. Denver now has more tools at its disposal to enact tobacco control policies to protect kids and save lives.
- Denver Needs Tobacco Licensure
It is too easy for kids to buy tobacco at retail stores in Denver. Retailer fines alone are not enough to deter bad actors. Denver needs to require retailers to obtain a license to sell tobacco products — as they must for other products like alcohol and marijuana. And the city needs to be able to suspend or revoke a store's tobacco retail license if it repeatedly violates the law by selling tobacco to minors.