Carbondale bars young adults from buying tobacco, vapes |

Carbondale bars young adults from buying tobacco, vapes

Matthew Bennett
Glenwood Springs Post Independent

Tobacco and vaping product users younger than 21 in Carbondale must buy their pack of smokes or vape e-cigs elsewhere very soon, as the town’s Board of Trustees on Tuesday unanimously approved raising the legal purchasing age from 18 to 21.

The new ordinance will take effect 30 days after legal publication, which will likely be next Thursday, Carbondale Town Manager Jay Harrington said.

“Our current ordinance prohibits the possession of tobacco products (under age 21) and we kept that in there,” he said. “If a juvenile has a vape product or tobacco products on them, they are in violation of the ordinance.”

The possession portion of the ordinance was left in not as part of a concentrated effort to smoke minors with minor charges that would burn on their permanent record, but rather to allow police to intervene and confiscate, and also educate, the town manager said.

“Our current code has a possession component on it,” Harrington said. “I think the chief said since it’s been in place, maybe one ticket has been issued. We tried to use it as an educational tool with kids … before we just fine them.

“It’s just one tool as we deal with it,” he added. “There will be an educational component from the police department side of the schools, and then there will be educational material during this time provided to the retailers in town, too.”

The Carbondale community evidently supported the increase in the purchase age, as the move wasn’t particularly contentious.

Big players, like the American Heart Association and Tobacco 21, offered their eager support to the small town and, according Trustee Lani Kitching, the board heard little to no opposition from business owners worried how the new ordinance may impact their bottom line.

“We only had one individual who commented, and that objection was more around the tax that Carbondale has around marijuana products,” Kitching explained. “There are many parents of school-age children on our Board of Trustees, and so their opinions weighed heavily into what the decision was.”

With the start of a new school year rapidly approaching, the timing of the ordinances’ approval certainly factored in.

“My colleagues have been listening to this longer than I have, however, it was fairly convincing that there is a concern among parents of the youth and the health care industry of the extensive use of vaping products by our Colorado children,” Kitching said. “We ranked No. 1 as a state, so that drove heavily into the perspective the trustees had.”

A different perspective on a broader scale might ask that if the U.S. can send an 18-year-old to war, why can’t the young adult make his or her own decisions about whether they chew, smoke or vape?

And where does the government, in Carbondale’s case a home rule municipality, draw the line regarding an individual’s right to make their own choices as it relates to their own health?

“Up until this point, anybody could purchase vaping products, it doesn’t matter how old you are. A 5-year-old could purchase them,” Carbondale Mayor Dan Richardson said.

According to the mayor, in theory, without this ordinance a baby could buy a vaping product.

Echoing Kitching, the mayor also said he had not heard any pushback from business owners. Instead, according to Richardson, some had already reached out to the police department notifying them that they had already begun training their employees accordingly for when the new ordinance does take effect.

“I’ve made the same argument in the past comparing service in the military to drinking and tobacco, but the fact of the matter is we have a long-standing law that says you have to be 21 to drink,” the mayor said. “I’m fine going along with that line of thinking for cigarettes and vaping products.”


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