Colorado “fails” in tobacco prevention efforts; Pitkin County adult tobacco rates low compared to state |

Colorado “fails” in tobacco prevention efforts; Pitkin County adult tobacco rates low compared to state

A man takes a smoke break on the Snowmass Mall Tuesday. Between 2011-2013, around five percent of Pitkin County adults ages 18 and older reported smoking cigarettes.
Jeremy Wallace/The Aspen Times |

The American Lung Association in Colorado issued a statement earlier this month that said the state’s effort to reduce tobacco use and save lives is “failing.”

Residents of Pitkin County, however, may find comfort in the fact that the rates of adult tobacco use in the county fall well below the state average.

Between 2011 and 2013, roughly 5 percent of Pitkin County adults ages 18 and older reported smoking cigarettes, Pitkin County Director of Public Health Liz Stark said.

Throughout the state, approximately 18 percent of adults reported using tobacco, Stark said, citing data from the Colorado Department of Health.

“Our tobacco rates are significantly lower than those of the state, and are even low compared to our neighboring regions,” Stark said.

As a result of Pitkin County’s low reported tobacco use, Stark said tobacco prevention efforts are not a priority of the Public Health Department.

“But it is still an important issue that we do care about,” Stark said.

The Public Health Department’s latest tobacco-prevention initiative took place in September in its joint effort with Aspen Valley Hospital to make the campus a smoke- and tobacco- free environment.

“We wanted to positively impact, from a policy point of view, the people who are seeking services in our building and the hospital,” Stark said.

As far as state policy, the American Lung Association in Colorado recommends the state increase tobacco taxes, which currently fall 76 cents below the national average.

Both the U.S. Surgeon General and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have endorsed increasing tobacco taxes as a means of reducing tobacco use.

According to a statement from the American Lung Association, each 10 percent increase in the price of cigarettes reduces tobacco consumption by roughly 4 percent among adults and about 7 percent among youth.

“Colorado is missing a clear opportunity to save lives by not taking action to prevent and reduce tobacco use,” said Curt Huber, executive director of the American Lung Association in Colorado.

Huber added, “We must also face the reality that youth use of other tobacco products nationwide like e-cigarettes and little cigars is at an all-time high.”

The report from the American Lung Association in Colorado called the increasing youth tobacco rates a “threat” to the national fight against tobacco-caused death and disease.

In Colorado, nearly one fourth of high school students report using tobacco, Huber said.

Aspen School District could not be reached for comment on youth tobacco use locally.

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