Aspen bans flavored nicotine products, joins handful of communities

Prohibition effective January 2020 and includes cigarettes, chewing tobacco, vape pens, e-cigarettes

Beginning Jan. 1, retailers in Aspen will be banned from selling flavored nicotine products, which includes cigarettes, cigars, chewing tobacco, e-cigarettes and vape pens.

Aspen City Council on Monday passed an ordinance approving the ban. It was the last action made by the outgoing council before a new one was sworn in.

Monday’s ordinance builds on council’s partial ban made May 20, which was passed for failure of having a majority vote.

Because Councilwoman Ann Mullins was not present, council was deadlocked on a full ban 2-2.

Council members indicated that they wished to reconsider their decision when a full board was present.

Monday’s vote was 3-2, with council members Adam Frisch and Bert Myrin dissenting, and Ward Hauenstein and Ann Mullins, along with Mayor Steve Skadron in favor.

The majority of council based its decision on information that suggests usage rates for e-cigarettes and tobacco among youth in the Aspen area show a concerning trend, with flavored products being the gateway to lifelong addiction.

Council has been discussing the flavor ban since at least March, when it directed staff to craft the ordinance.

Council received letters in support of the ban from Aspen High School principals, the American Heart Association, the Colorado School of Public Health, Aspen Valley Hospital and local doctor Kim Scheuer, among other health care industry officials.

Several members of the public spoke in front of council Monday, asking that it pass the ordinance.

Three Aspen High School seniors told council that flavored tobacco use is prevalent among their peers and they believe flavoring is used as a marketing tool to get kids addicted.

“As long as kids are able to access it or figure out a way to get it,” they will become addicted, student Molly Miller said.

Frisch’s son, Felix, addressed council and said use is prevalent in the middle school, as well.

Councilman Frisch — noting that sometimes it stinks voting against his friends and in this case, his family’s ideals — voted against the ordinance because he believes it’s overreaching, and asked what’s to stop the government from meddling in liquor or marijuana sales?

Citizen Toni Kronberg told council her sister was just diagnosed with terminal cancer and she was a heavy smoker for a good portion of her life.

“Cancer is not a pretty death,” she said, urging council to approve the ban and asking that the revenue collected from the city’s $3 additional tax on cigarettes goes to education and public outreach in the school system.

Aspen is one of a handful of cities in the country to pass a flavored tobacco ban, which officials believe sends a message of leadership in public health and safety.

“I really hopes this becomes something that other communities look at,” said local doctor Kim Levin, who has championed the ban.

Pitkin County officials have indicated that they will begin to pursue similar restrictions to what Aspen currently has in place, including raising the legal age to buy tobacco to 21, as well as potentially looking into a tobacco tax.

A flavor ban in not currently on Pitkin County’s list for future actions, according to city staff.


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