City to ban all flavored tobacco, nicotine products in Aspen
Aspen’s elected officials took measures Tuesday to ban the sale of all flavored tobacco and nicotine products, fearing that they are contributing to abuse by teenagers.
The ban includes menthol cigarettes, and flavored e-cigarettes, vape pens, snuff and chewing tobacco.
“The focus should be on banning the flavored products, which I believe are marketed to children and they become lifelong customers,” said Dr. Kim Levin, medical officer for the Pitkin County Board of Health, who presented her case to Aspen City Council with Risa Turetsky from Pitkin County Public Health.
“The political climate is ripe and we thought this was timely,” Levin said, adding municipalities and states have already banned the products.
She asked council to restrict the sale of flavored nicotine products in Aspen to create a barrier for young users. With a ban, the city could play a preventative role in youth picking up a tobacco or vaping habit, Levin noted.
“It’s a pretty soft sell,” said Councilman Ward Hauenstein, who supported being as restrictive as possible to ban the flavored products, as did the rest of the council.
“It’s long overdue,” said Councilman Adam Frisch, adding he wants the city to reach out to retailers who sell the products to let them know legislation is coming.
Recent studies show that Colorado has the highest youth rates of e-cigarette use in the nation, and rates for the Roaring Fork Valley are higher than the Colorado state average, according to a memo to council by CJ Oliver, the city’s environmental health and sustainability director. A majority of Aspen High School seniors report having tried vaping, and 1 in 5 Aspen eighth-grade students report having tried e-cigarettes.
Levin said they are highly addictive and kids are taking these products to school as they are easy to conceal.
“It’s unbelievable what’s happening,” she told council.
With Aspen taking local action against a national health epidemic, people will take notice.
“As you know, we attract attention when we do things,” said City Attorney Jim True at Tuesday’s council meeting.
Councilwoman Ann Mullins said it’s interesting that issues like this are surfacing at the local level.
“This is a really big move,” she said. “It’s really quite empowering at the local level to take control of this.”
“I think the ramifications of doing this are powerful,” she said.
Finding a restaurant operator to go into the former Taster’s Pizza space across from Rio Grande Park wasn’t a priority for Aspen’s elected officials earlier this year but now it is.
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