Aspen’s electeds reconsider full flavored nicotine ban
A majority of Aspen’s elected officials are leaning away from a proposed ban on all flavored tobacco products within city limits, and instead will consider a partial prohibition tonight.
After hearing from Local’s Corner convenience store owner Mike Haisfield at last week’s meeting about how much a full ban would affect his bottom line and other arguments, Aspen City Council members said they would reconsider the ordinance that was presented to them at first reading May 13.
After debate and presentations from public health officials during a May 6 work session, council directed staff to draft an ordinance that would ban all flavored tobacco and vaporizing products in Aspen.
Council also had asked for staff to check in with retailers that sell flavored nicotine products to get their feedback on the potential full ban.
CJ Oliver, the city’s environmental health and sustainability director, reported there was significant resistance from local businesses whose sales would be impacted.
Retailers said the city’s $3 tax on cigarettes and changing the legal age to buy tobacco and nicotine products to 21 have curbed sales, and the goal to limit access to teens has been met.
Despite retailers’ resistance, the majority of council wanted to press on with a full ban.
Councilman Adam Frisch was in the minority at that meeting but appeared to have gained support during first reading last week.
Frisch said if it’s about youth, then a ban is effective. But prohibiting flavored nicotine from adults is government overreach, he said.
A father of two sons in Aspen High School, Haisfield told council last week that he stopped selling flavored vape pens and e-cigarettes in December 2017 as a way to curb youth from getting their hands on the products.
But menthol cigarettes and flavored chewing tobacco are not what area kids are going for, so a full ban would only hurt his bottom line.
Haisfield estimated that he would lose between 20 and 25 percent of sales as a result of the full ban.
He said he lost about 35 percent of sales in 2018 after the age to buy nicotine products went from 18 to 21, and the tax went into effect. He said he is another 10 percent down this year.
“I feel like the issue is the youth, and I think when they are 21 they can make their own decision,” Haisfield told council, adding the ban wouldn’t apply in Pitkin County, where it’s available at the Conoco at the Aspen Business Center. “A ban won’t stop a young adult from actually trying a product, especially when it’s a car ride 3.6 miles away at the airport.”
His sons, Brady and Jon, a freshman and junior at high school, respectively, also spoke in front of council.
They said their peers are not looking for tobacco products, but vaping is prevalent in the school.
“From a student’s perspective … you never see students chewing or dipping or anything else with tobacco,” Jon Haisfield said.
A majority of council at the May 13 meeting appeared to be swayed enough to only eliminate flavored vaporizing and electronic nicotine products.
“I still have trepidation and concerns telling someone over 21 what do with their life,” Councilman Ward Hauenstein said.
Councilman Bert Myrin concurred.
“People over 21 should be able to do whatever they want to do without impacting others,” he said.
Mayor Steve Skadron said while it’s council’s job to protect the public health and safety of the community, he said he is swayed that a full ban won’t be effective due to the close proximity of having flavored tobacco products in neighboring communities.
Councilwoman Ann Mullins reminded her colleagues that they’ve been presented with compelling evidence from public health officials that a full ban is effective in deterring use.
Council will discuss the matter at its regular meeting which begins at 5 p.m. today in City Hall.
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