Pitkin County will send tobacco tax proposal to November ballot
Pitkin County aims to join Aspen and other local municipalities in taxing the sale of cigarettes and other tobacco products.
The county commissioners voted 5-0 Wednesday to place a tobacco tax question on the Nov. 5 ballot. The proposal is for a tax of $3.20 per pack of cigarettes with an increase of 10 cents annually until it reaches $4 per pack as well as 40% on all other tobacco and nicotine products.
If approved, the tax would be implemented Jan. 1.
“This is a strategy for reducing tobacco use,” Pitkin County Public Health Director Karen Koenemann told the commissioners.
Her memo to the commissioners said research has established that price increases have the largest impact on children and young adults starting and continuing tobacco use. For every 10% increase in price, there is a 7% decrease in youth use and a 4% overall decrease.
Commissioner Steve Child said he was particularly concerned about kids using e-cigarettes, also known as vaping.
The resolution passed by the county commissioners to send the question to the ballot said, “Colorado has the highest rate of youth use of e-cigarettes in the nation, and Pitkin County schools have some of the highest use rates in the state.”
Dr. Kim Levin, an emergency room doctor at Aspen Valley Hospital and Pitkin County’s medical officer, said 1 in 4 Aspen High School students acknowledged in a survey that they have tried vaping. She said taking action on a local level has proven effective in reducing rates of tobacco use.
“It’s one of many tools to fight this epidemic and one of the most effective,” she told the commissioners.
Aspen, Snowmass and Basalt voters all previously approved a tobacco tax. Carbondale’s elected officials also approved placing a tobacco tax on the ballot and Glenwood Springs officials are considering it, said Ann Mullins, an anti-tobacco activist and Aspen councilwomen. The Eagle County commissioners are also sending a measure to the ballot.
The effort will be more effective with the counties taxing tobacco, Mullins said.
If approved, Pitkin County’s tax would raise an estimated $700,000 in 2020. The revenue will be used for public health programs with a focus on tobacco and substance-abuse prevention and mental health programs. Revenue also will be used to enforce and administer the program.
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