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Pitkin County Considers Raising Tobacco Purchase Age To 21

Dec 18, 2019

Pitkin County health officials suggested a number of changes to curtail the area's high rate of youth tobacco use.
Credit Vaping360 via Creative Commons

Colorado has the highest rate of youth electronic cigarette use in the nation, and use among high schoolers in Pitkin County is among the highest in the state. Now, the county is considering measures to change that.

At a Board of County Commissioners work session on Tuesday, county health officials suggested changes that target manufacturers and retailers instead of punishing kids. 

“If they're making a bunch of money off getting kids addicted, then it probably is really important that we ensure that the onus is on them,” said Risa Turetsky, health promotion program administrator for Pitkin County. “In terms of retailers, these are adults who own companies and are in our community, and we want to make sure that they are the gatekeepers to prevent access of tobacco products to kids.”

Some deterrents could include banning the sale of flavored tobacco and requiring retailers to hold a tobacco-selling license, just like they would for selling alcohol. 

County commissioners will likely instate two changes that are within their purview -- raising the legal purchase age to 21 and increasing the price of tobacco products through taxes. 

“The most effective way to decrease kids using tobacco products is to increase the price,” Turetsky said. “And Colorado has one of the lowest taxes in the country.”

Those two changes could come as soon as early January.

Turetsky added that curtailing tobacco use among young people is important for their long-term health.

“Because addiction happens in kids and addiction doesn't happen as much to nicotine in adults,” Turetsky said, “we have to make sure that we're not having kids get addicted to nicotine now and potentially have all these problems later.”