Aspen should use tobacco taxes for their intended purpose

Mr. Mayor and Honorable Members of (Aspen) City Council,

Having read an Aspen Times article today (Sept. 6) regarding the availability of funds from taxes on cigarettes (“Aspen sitting on hundreds of thousands of dollars in tobacco tax revenue“), I implore you to take action to create a plan for use of these funds immediately and into the future. There should be a well-thought-out strategy for how to deploy this money to discourage smoking and vaping by children.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website indicates that nearly nine out of 10 smokers started before they were 18 and nearly 99% by the time they were 26. The same website page indicates that in 2020, 85% of high school students and 74% of middle school students who used tobacco products in the past 30 days reported using a flavored tobacco product during that time.

We can debate the effectiveness of sin taxes at another time, but each year that these programs to fight addiction (in this case nicotine) go uncreated or unfunded, another class of students grows up and has the opportunity to smoke or vape. Maybe they would anyway; I’m not sure. But these monies were collected with the consent of the community, and the purpose was to finance mental wellness programs, health and human services and substance use and addiction. All worthy goals, especially these days. These funds should not be dispensed in an ad hoc manner — there should be a plan based on successful programs, and it should be followed and updated regularly.

Every new smoker is a lifetime funding source for tobacco and vaping companies. Children are being targeted, and the least we can do is try to fight back. It starts at home, but we also have funds to be used. Please use them wisely and soon.

John Corcoran

Old Snowmass