Pitkin County Issue 1A: Voters approve of tax on tobacco products


(as of 11 p.m.)

A dedicate sales tax on all cigarettes, tobacco and nicotine products in Pitkin County starting Jan. 1, 2020, for $3.20 per pack of 20 cigarettes and increasing by 10 cents annually until the tax is $4; sales tax of 40% on all other tobacco and nicotine products. The revenues would be used generally for tax collection, enforcement, public health programs such as tobacco and substance abuse prevention, and mental health programs.

Yes/For: 3,939 (78.75%)

No/Against: 1,062 (21.25%)

Source: Pitkin County Clerk and Recorder

Pitkin County’s proposed tobacco tax appeared well on its way to passing Tuesday night by a nearly three-to-one margin.

“Looks like we got it,” Pitkin Board of County Commissioners Chairman Greg Poschman said Tuesday night. “I think it’s great.”

The tax will allow Pitkin County to charge the same as other municipalities in the Roaring Fork Valley “so people can’t leave the county to buy cigarettes cheaper,” he said. But the bottom line is that price increases are the best way to get both young people and adults to quit tobacco and nicotine, he said.

“So that’s why we did it,” Poschman said.

The tax — known as Ballot Issue 1A — was passing Tuesday night by a margin of 3,939 votes for (78.75%) to 1,062 against (21.25%), according to updated results posted at 11 p.m. by the Pitkin County Clerk’s Office on the Colorado Secretary of State’s website.

Pitkin County’s tax — which was approved unanimously in August by all five members of the board of commissioners — will add $3.20 to a pack of cigarettes with an annual 10-cent increase until the tax reaches $4. The tax mirrors the same price for cigarettes in the city of Aspen, where voters approved the same tobacco tax in 2017.

Aspen was the first municipality in the state to pass the tax. Tuesday night, Aspen voters were on the way to allowing the city to keep the excess tax it collected in 2018, and there after.

Other tobacco and nicotine products sold in Pitkin County will be taxed at 40%, under the new tax.

Tuesday, voters in Eagle and Summit counties faced a similar tobacco tax question, as did voters in Glenwood Springs and New Castle.

Research has established that price increases are the best way to impact children and young adults who use tobacco tax, Pitkin County Public Health Director Karen Koenemann has said. For every 10% increase in price, there is a corresponding 7% decrease in youth use and a 4% overall decrease.

“It’s such a heartwarming thing to know that this community continues to prioritize health,” Koenemann said Tuesday night.

That the tobacco ban would pass in Pitkin County was not hard to predict. In 2016, when voters statewide defeated a tobacco tax increase, Pitkin County had the highest percentage of support for it of any county in the state. In Aspen, 75% of city voters passed the tax in November 2017.

“It wasn’t that much of a surprise,” Poschman said. “I didn’t meet anybody who was against it.”

Commissioners, however, are not yet finished dealing with tobacco and nicotine.

Last month, the board expressed unanimous support for raising the county’s minimum age for buying tobacco and other nicotine products from 18 to 21. Commissioners also supported banning flavored nicotine products, including flavored chewing tobacco and menthol cigarettes that have been available for decades.

Aspen, Carbondale and Glenwood Springs already have banned flavored nicotine products, while Garfield County is looking at a ban and at raising the minimum age.