1A: A simple step to address addiction

It is alarming to me that Colorado has the highest rate of youth e-cigarette use in the nation, and Pitkin County schools have some of the highest use rates in the state.

As a physician, it is also alarming there is a current national epidemic with over 1,600 cases of e-cigarette-linked severe lung disease reported in 49 states, and 34 confirmed deaths. Colorado has had 11 confirmed cases, and one death (being confirmed). I know our valley is not immune, in fact it is at high risk given the local stats.

Overwhelming. What can we do individually and collectively?

One simple step at a time: Vote for 1A to pass a nicotine tax.

Fight to help our youth avoid nicotine addiction. CDC research has shown that increasing price per pack of cigarettes is associated with a significant decrease in youth smoking rates. Surprisingly, there are no current taxes on vaping products — “yes” on 1A will work to decrease vaping rates in a similar way as cigarettes have shown. Also, Colorado is in the lowest quartile of all states for cigarette tax at only 84 cents/pack — we can normalize this with many other states where cigarette tax is close to $3 per pack and NY at $4.35/pack.

Act locally now to address addiction issues in our valley. A nicotine tax will provide critical local funds for public health programs that address our widespread substance abuse, addiction and mental health problems in our valley.

The national epidemic on vaping-related severe lung disease feels frightening. As the medical community sorts through this alarming problem and draws connections and causes, any measure to prevent continued use is the right step.

The county will create uniform policy. Passing 1A will fill in the gaps between Aspen and Basalt, both of which have already passed tobacco taxes.

Vote “yes” on 1A November ballot.

Kimberly Levin, MD