On Wednesday, the Pitkin County Board of Commissioners will consider raising the minimum age to purchase tobacco to 21. Under the new measure, the county would fine retailers $1,000 if they are caught selling to underage people.
The change is meant to promote long-term health by keeping high school students away from tobacco products, vapes and e-cigarettes.
“We know that 95% of people who smoke started before they were 21,” said Risa Turetsky, Pitkin County health promotion program administrator. “Because their ability to get addicted is so much higher. We’re just keeping it further and further away from the people who are more likely to get addicted earlier.”
Some critics say age changes would limit personal freedoms, but Turetsky says that is not the case here.
“What’s really important to remember is that this is an addictive product that’s marketed to young people,” Turetsky said. “So the idea of personal choice goes out the window when you talk about people who get addicted and can’t stop.”
The rate of teen tobacco use in Pitkin County is one of the highest in the state, and Colorado has the highest rate of teen use in the nation.