Aspen Times Endorsement: Proposed tobacco tax is another step in right direction for Aspen | AspenTimes.com

Aspen Times Endorsement: Proposed tobacco tax is another step in right direction for Aspen

Aspen has the chance to continue to remain at the forefront of the wave against smoking and its harmful effects.

On the ballot Tuesday is Issue 2B, which with voter approval would establish a municipal tax on a pack of cigarettes of $3 (then increase it by 10 cents a year for the next decade until it hits $4) and add a 40 percent sales tax on all other tobacco products.

The tax is expected to generate up to $325,000 annually and would go into the city's general fund with a line item that the money would fund health and human services and anti-smoking education campaigns. This is not a money grab, city officials have said; it's about healthy living.

We agree.

In the early 1970s, ashtrays as large as dinner plates were available in the City Council chamber as well as administrators' offices. After the mayoral election of 1973, ashtrays disappeared from council chambers.

Smoking still occurred in offices and probably went on until Aspen's smoking ban that was backed by the Group to Alleviate Smoker Pollution (GASP) was adopted in 1985 by the City Council and was cutting-edge for its time. Aspen was the first in the nation to enact a comprehensive anti-smoking policy that included restaurants.

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At a public hearing on the no smoking ordinance, there was opposition from the restaurant community that it would hurt their business. Then-Mayor Bill Stirling said at the time: "In one or two years it may be inconceivable for people to smoke in restaurants." How prescient.

The proposed cigarette taxes would go into effect Jan. 1, 2018, which is the same day the new age minimum to buy tobacco products increases from 18 to 21 in Aspen. It is estimated the city will lose about $75,000 in annual tobacco tax revenue from the state by raising the age.

The tax along with the 21-older Aspen law is not only another way to help push teenagers away from smoking, but perhaps it will become a greater deterrent to those who are smoking and need another reason to quit. Aspen is the first municipality in Colorado to raise the age to 21, following the leads of Hawaii and California.

Perhaps when smokers in Aspen put down a $10 bill and don't get change back (or it's not enough), maybe that will change some smokers' attitudes and help them drop the habit.

The Aspen Times editorial board consists of Publisher Samantha Johnston, Editor David Krause, Managing Editor Rick Carroll and community member Kathryn Koch.