Aspen City Council moves closer to raising tobacco-purchase age
other city Council business
• Political gadfly Toni Kronberg put council members on notice that a citizen referendum is afoot to overturn their decision to build a new building for civic offices. Kronberg, who lives in Snowmass Canyon, also sued the city last week in Pitkin County District over the decision.
Kronberg contends the city breached the 2006 Civic Master Plan by approving the development of a city office building near the Pitkin County Library. That’s because, she has argued, the plan does not allow for civic offices where they are proposed; the space is instead designated for affordable housing or neighborhood-commercial development.
The city plans to build 28,400 square feet of new space for civic offices on Rio Grande Place near the Pitkin County Library. The city also will use another 6,400 square feet of existing space on Rio Grande Place for future offices.
The estimated cost of the project ranges from $35.9 million to $38.6 million, $21 million of which would be paid with city cash and the rest through financing. That also includes a gutting and remodel of the existing City Hall at the corner of East Hopkins Avenue and Galena Street.
• Council members heaped praise on City Clerk Linda Manning for running a smooth election on May 2, which led to the re-elections of Councilwoman Ann Mullins and Mayor Steve Skadron. Manning said she expects mail ballots for the June 6 runoff, matching Ward Hauenstein against Torre, to be sent out May 18. This week also is Municipal Clerks Week, a proclamation city council members blessed at the meeting.
“Thank you so much for all of your service,” Skadron told Manning. “Your team is outstanding.”
• New Assistant City Manager Sara Ott was introduced to the council. Ott most recently was township administrator of Washington Township in Ohio. She replaces Randy Ready, who took a job as the town manager of Frisco.
• The city will be giving and taking from residents on Saturday.
From 9 to 1 p.m. at the Community Bank parking lot, the city will collect, free of charge, any unwanted computers, monitors and other high-tech equipment from Aspen residents.
And from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Paepcke Park, the city will hold an Arbor Day celebration that will include free trees to people showing their proof of residency. The trees will be given out on a first come, first served basis. Free hotdogs and drinks will be available, along with games, raffles, informational booths and other offerings.
— Rick Carroll
City leaders took another step Monday toward making Aspen the first municipality in the state to raise its legal age to buy tobacco products from 18 to 21 years old.
City Council members voted 4-0 in approval of what’s billed as the Tobacco 21 Initiative, a nationwide effort that’s aimed at matching the legal tobacco-purchasing age with that of liquor.
The city’s ordinance returns for a second and final hearing next month. If passed, it would take effect Jan. 1, according to C.J. Oliver, the city’s director of environmental health.
The idea was first proposed to City Council at an April work session. Pitkin County Medical Officer Dr. Kimberly Levin has led the effort, which has been embraced by City Council so far.
“I have two boys between the ages of 18 and 21, and (I) very much support this,” Councilman Art Daily said.
“I’m supportive of this whole-heartedly,” said Councilman Adam Frisch, noting he heard from some out-of-staters who were critical of the city’s plans to raise the age, saying, “There are scientific reasons why smoking is not bad for teenagers.”
Frisch wasn’t moved by that logic, and speaking to the council on behalf of a group of pediatricians, Dr. Harvey Mitchell said Aspen’s introduction of the Tobacco 21 program could help curb addiction rates that began early on.
“Ninety percent of people who are lifelong smokers started before they were 18,” he said, adding that studies show that 8.6 percent of Colorado high school-aged residents are daily smokers, while 26 percent say they have tried e-cigarettes.
The city also received separate letters supporting the age raise from Aspen School District Superintendent John Maloy, Aspen Valley Hospital CEO David Ressler and Aspen Chamber Resort Association President Debbie Braun.
The ordinance would apply to purchases not only of tobacco products, but such nicotine devices as vaporizers and e-cigarettes. Aspen has six retailers of tobacco — Aspen Luggage, Carl’s Pharmacy, Cigar Bar, City Market, One Love and Local’s Corner. The ordinance would require them to buy tobacco licenses from the city to sell their products.
With the ordinance, the city would forgo state tobacco sales revenue of roughly $75,000 annually. But council members have said they could make up some of that shortfall with an Aspen tobacco sales tax, provided voters approve it.
It is legal in Colorado to buy and consume tobacco products at age 18. And the Aspen ordinance, while a step toward reducing teen tobacco use, would not pertain to tobacco use for those under 21. The 18-to-20 age group still could legally use tobacco and nicotine products in Aspen under the ordinance.
In both Hawaii and California, individuals must be 21 to legally purchase tobacco products. Hawaii was the first to raise the age Jan. 1, 2016; California followed suit June 9, 2016.
At least 225 U.S. localities — which include 144 in Massachusetts — also have the same standard, according to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
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International visitors have traditionally accounted for 10 to 20 percent of Aspen Skiing Co.’s skier visits in recent past seasons. Travel fears and restrictions tied to the coronavirus are expected to wipe out most of that market for 2020-21.