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Aspen hopes to ban all flavored tobacco

The city of Aspen is drafting an ordinance that would ban all flavored tobacco sales within town limits, including menthol cigarettes and many types of chew and vaping products.

City council members expressed full support of the measure, which would not need to go to voters to be enacted, at a work session on Tuesday.

The initiative is being led by Risa Turetsky with Pitkin County Public Health and Dr. Kim Levin, medical officer for the Pitkin County Board of Health. Levin helped pass Aspen’s tobacco retail licence ordinance in 2017, which restricted sales to those over 21 years old and imposed new local taxes.

Levin said flavored tobacco products are a clear manipulation to hook young customers.

“Once a child is addicted to nicotine they are a lifetime customer,” she said.

The measure would be an update to Aspen’s existing retail license regulations, and would affect a handful of businesses in town.

Now that the council has given the go ahead to start working on the ordinance, the city will be reaching out to the relevant vendors in town.

“We will be inviting them to be present at the council meetings where the new ordinance will be introduced, as well as for the public hearing on the topic which will come later this spring,” said CJ Oliver, Aspen’s environmental health and sustainability director.

Neither Aspen gas station convenience store sells any vaping products. A clerk at the Aspen Conoco station said that “wintergreen” is their most popular Skoal smokeless tobacco flavor and that they also sell a variety of flavored cigarillos. Both products would likely be banned from the shelves under the proposed ordinance.

The law would be based off one passed in San Francisco that includes all types of flavored tobacco products including cigarettes, e-cigarettes, chewing tobacco and cigars. All flavors, including menthol and spice flavors such as clove, would be banned.

The fiscal impacts are hard to calculate. While the city receives $3.10 per pack of cigarettes sold and a 40 percent sales tax on other products, the percentage of those sales that involve flavored items are not reported, according to city finance director Pete Strecker. Presumably the loss of sales would mean a loss of sales tax, but that tax brought in $100,000 more than was predicted in its first year.

In San Francisco, the city was sued after enacting the flavor ban, but the law was upheld. In a work session last week, City Attorney Jim True told council that the measure would be a risk for lawsuit.

“I cannot say that if you took this action you’d be free from litigation,” True said.

Assistant City Attorney Andrea Bryan explained that the city is able to put restrictions on free market sales when it comes to public good, as its has done with plastic bags and a proposed ban on fur in the past.

“Local governments are afforded broad discretion in implementing reasonable regulations to protect the public health, safety, and welfare,” Bryan wrote in an email.

Data from the Food and Drug Administration shows a 78 percent increase in adolescent use of e-cigarettes nationally within the last year. Colorado is number one in the country for teen use of vaping products, and the Roaring Fork Valley numbers are nearly three times higher than the national average, according to Pitkin County public health.

“When you get to a product that is actually bad for your health, it’s a different kind of product,” Levin said, adding that she’s not sure that the flavor ban is legal, but she thinks it’s the right move to take the risk. “We as adults and we as regulators and government have a responsibility to protect kids — I firmly believe in regulation in public health law.”

Aspen would be the first community in the state to pass this type of restriction. Colorado Rep. Diana DeGette introduced a similar measure on the federal level this month. The SAFE Kids Act is targeted solely at e-cigarettes and would ban the manufacturing of all flavored nicotine pods.

“To me, there is no legitimate reason to sell any product with names such as cotton candy or tutti fruitti, unless you are trying to market it to children,” DeGette said in a press release. “If we’re going to address the root cause of this problem, we have to start by banning the sale of these enticing kid-friendly nicotine flavors.”

Aspen was the first city in the state to raise the purchase age for all tobacco products from 18 to 21. Many other towns have followed suit including Basalt and Carbondale and a measure in the Colorado state house would allow counties to create tobacco retail license without losing tax dollars from the state.

The hope is that Aspen would lead the way again.

“This is a bigger conversation and the only way to make change right now is local change,” Levin said. “We can do it.”

Hundreds of Youth Urge Minnesota Lawmakers to Tackle Tobacco Addiction

Nearly 400 youth and adult advocates from across Minnesota rallied on February 27 at the State Capitol to urge lawmakers to address tobacco addiction and “Keep Lungs Loud.” Minnesotans for a Smoke-Free Generation, a coalition of more than 60 organizations that share a common goal of saving Minnesota youth from a lifetime of addiction to tobacco, brought together residents from all across Minnesota during their annual Day at the Capitol. The activists included young students, parents, educators, physicians and other citizens concerned about commercial tobacco use.

Since last year’s Day at the Capitol, 18 Minnesota communities have passed local Tobacco 21 policies. Minnesota now has 23 cities and counties with Tobacco 21 ordinances, covering more than 22 percent of Minnesota’s population. Many locals who advocated for these lifesaving policies were present and honored at this year’s event.

“Today’s Minnesotans for a Smoke-Free Generation Day at the Capitol is a reminder that tobacco addiction affects people all across Minnesota, in every stage of life and every single community,” said Molly Moilanen, Vice President at ClearWay MinnesotaSM and Co-Chair of Minnesotans for a Smoke-Free Generation. “Today also reminds us of the lifesaving progress we can make together through bold state and local policies. Let’s work together to tackle tobacco addiction from all angles, by passing Tobacco 21, funding quit-smoking help and strengthening our clean indoor air law.”

Following the rally, advocates met with legislators and encouraged them to prioritize tobacco prevention this session. The coalition supports three bipartisan bills that will help Minnesota save lives and money. The proposals would strengthen the state’s clean indoor air law, provide quit-smoking help for all residents, and raise the tobacco age to 21. Several lead authors of these bills joined grassroots supporters at the rally.

Grassroots supporters from the Minnesotans for a Smoke-Free Generation coalition urged lawmakers to quickly pass these three bills. Yesterday, the Tobacco 21 bill (SF463/HF331) advanced in both houses, passing out of the House Commerce Committee and Senate Health and Human Services Policy and Finance Committee. The bill to keep indoor air clean (SF462/HF349) also advanced yesterday through the House Commerce Committee, but has not been heard yet in the Senate.

House Committee Hears Two Tobacco Funding Bills

Separately, today the House Health and Human Service Finance Committee heard two bills to fund tobacco prevention and cessation. Committee members held over both bills for potential inclusion in their HHS budget.

The first bill, HF350/SF461, provides funding for Tobacco Cessation Services. QUITPLAN® Services, the state’s free quit-smoking program, is ending in 2020. Lawmakers must fund quit-smoking resources this year so there is no gap in help for Minnesotans who are trying to quit tobacco. If Minnesota does not fund a statewide service, it will become the only state in the nation not providing one.

The second proposal, HF1058/SF1029, states that if Minnesota is successful in recouping tobacco settlement fees from delinquent cigarette brands, a portion must be dedicated to health. Specifically, approximately $12 million a year of those settlement fees would be used for tobacco prevention and control. Since 2015, several cigarette brands have not been paying their required share of settlement fees to the state of Minnesota. Tobacco companies agreed to pay these fees in perpetuity as part of 1998 Minnesota Tobacco Settlement.

“Every year, Big Tobacco causes new addictions, death and disease throughout Minnesota,” Moilanen said. “The tobacco settlement was reached in part to compensate the state for the tremendous harms of tobacco use. These cigarette companies have shirked this responsibility by refusing to pay their fair share of the settlement fees. If that wrong is righted, the best way for Minnesota to use the money is to address tobacco’s harm and help prevent the next generation of tobacco addiction.”

Tobacco use remains Minnesota’s leading cause of preventable death and disease, costing an estimated $7 billion annually and taking the lives of more than 6,300 Minnesotans every year. Smoking rates in Minnesota had been declining for decades, but the adult cigarette smoking rate has stalled out at 14 percent, and for the first time in a generation youth tobacco use has increased. In particular, the surging use of e-cigarettes is threatening the health of Minnesota teens, driving an increase in youth tobacco use that the U.S. Surgeon General has called an epidemic.

Our Healthy Community: The Teen Vaping Epidemic

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Robert Crane, M.D.
Preventing Tobacco Addiction Foundation


Mysheika W. Roberts, M.D.
Health Commissioner
Columbus Public Health


Micah Berman
Associate Professor of Public Health and Law at the College of Public Health
The Ohio State University


Thomas P. Houston, M.D.
Clinic Medical Director
The Breathing Association


The US Surgeon General first announced the grave health risks of tobacco use in 1964. 55 years later, Ohio has an above average rate of smokers among adults and more troubling, high schoolers.

The introduction of e-cigarettes in the early 2000s was heralded as a quasi-solution to the problem. E-cigarettes allow smokers to enjoy a puff without the tar or ash, but still delivers the nicotine they crave (or, to which they are addicted).

Turns out teens love vaping for its trendiness and fun flavors and it’s becoming an epidemic. 37% of high school seniors say they have tried vaping, and evidence shows that consequently, they are much more likely to switch to traditional tobacco products.





Partnering Organizations


CMC and OhioHealth Presents Our Healthy Community


Listen to the Forum Podcast


Cancer advocates say tobacco bill is flawed, encourage lawmakers to vote no

SALT LAKE CITY — A bill to incrementally raise the age for tobacco products, including electronic cigarettes, to 21 passed through the Utah Legislature Wednesday with a 15-12 vote in the Senate and a 55-16 concurrence vote in the House.

HB324, sponsored by Rep. Steve Eliason, R-Sandy, changes the age from 19 to 20 on July 1, 2020, and to 21 one year later. The bill raises the age for “obtaining, possessing, using, providing, or furnishing of tobacco products, paraphernalia, and under certain circumstances, electronic cigarettes.”

Arguments around this bill has centered on the debate of preemption, with cancer advocates speaking against an early version of the bill. The bill that passed made only one amendment to preemption language in current code, adding the minimum age of sale to what cannot be modified by cities and counties.

Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, the Senate sponsor of the bill, said this compromise would allow cities that have already raised the age for sale of tobacco, including Lehi and Cedar Hills, to keep the age at 21 instead of following the incremental age increase in the state.

She said addiction should not be shamed or criminalized, especially for youth. If youth get in trouble while they are building who they are as a person, they could define themselves as thugs or criminals.

“This is not about smokers, this is about protecting youth from having access to these addictive materials that the tobacco industry is pushing,” Tischler said.

According to Tischler, 800 youth in Utah each year become daily smokers, and vaping is especially a problem for youth because they have more access to it and it’s easier to hide from parents.

Jordan Osborne was part of an anti-tobacco youth group in Utah County and helped change laws to make parks tobacco free. But when he was 18, a friend a few years older bought him a vape pen and he became a smoker. He still vapes and occasionally smokes cigarettes. He said he doesn’t feel like he is addicted, but he gets aggravated when he hasn’t smoked.

“If they had the smoking age at 21 back then it would have made it even harder for me to even get (tobacco),” Osborne said.

He said if he had never started using tobacco he would be a lot healthier and wouldn’t have to have something to help him relax.

Cedar Hills and Lehi both passed ordinances in the last few weeks raising the age to buy tobacco to 21. But opponents to HB324 say language in the bill could stop other cities from making changes to local tobacco laws.

Vaping isn’t working at cessation; it is working at hooking our teens

When electronic cigarettes first came on the market, we hoped they might help reduce the tremendous harm caused by tobacco cigarettes. If smokers inhaled a vapor containing nicotine, flavorings and other additives rather than the multitude of cancer-causing chemicals in tobacco smoke, there might be some benefit.

While some adults have used e-cigarettes to wean themselves from tobacco, research indicates that e-cigarettes are really just another nicotine delivery device with its own unique hazards that addict users to nicotine. This is especially concerning for teens and young adults who are using e-cigarettes with alarming frequency.

One recent study did suggest that e-cigarettes helped adults stop smoking. However, those who quit tobacco continued to consume e-cigarettes and nicotine a year later. More common appears to be the experience of smokers studied by Dr. Russell Bowler, a professor of medicine at National Jewish Health. He found that most of the tobacco smokers who started using e-cigarettes in hopes of quitting tobacco continued to smoke tobacco at similar or higher levels five years later. Former smokers who began using e-cigarettes were more than 16 times as likely to resume tobacco smoking.

Additional research at National Jewish Health has shown that, while less harmful than tobacco smoke, e-cigarette vapor itself is harmful. It injures cells lining the airways and blood vessels in the lungs, and increases susceptibility to respiratory viruses.

E-cigarette use, or vaping, by teens and young adults is especially worrisome. After decades of decline, the consumption of tobacco products has taken a U-turn and begun a precipitous climb. Vaping among middle and high school students increased 900 percent from 2011 to 2015 and nearly doubled in just the last year.

Today, one in 20 middle schoolers and one in five high school students use e-cigarettes. College students and young adults vape at similar or even greater rates.

Research has shown that youth who try an e-cigarette are more likely to begin smoking tobacco. The Surgeon General and the Food and Drug Administration have both called e-cigarette use by teens and young adults a serious public health threat.

Nicotine in e-cigarettes poses unique threats to young users’ health. Adolescence is an important period of brain development when learning capacity, decision making, working memory, reward processing and emotional regulation all grow and mature. Nicotine use during adolescence profoundly alters this process, priming the brain for future addictions and increasing the risk of mood disorders, intellectual problems and impulsiveness.

E-cigarettes have become immensely popular, fueled by flavors and marketing targeted at young people. Peer pressure to vape is bearing down on those who don’t. Many don’t even realize they are vaping nicotine and mistakenly believe they are inhaling simple water vapor. Teenage brains are especially susceptible to nicotine’s addictive and rewarding effects, yet many fail to recognize the threat e-cigarettes pose to long-term mental and physical health.

After decades of fighting to reduce harm from tobacco, it is astounding that a new generation faces a renewed threat from tobacco. We must help young people avoid nicotine and quit e-cigarettes. Teens can call the Colorado QuitLine (1-800-QUIT-NOW), which recently lowered the age of eligibility for services to 12.

As the operator of the Colorado and many other state quitlines for 17 years, National Jewish Health has extensive experience treating nicotine addiction with personalized plans to avoid nicotine, navigate peer pressure and manage nicotine withdrawal. At the same time, the FDA must tighten regulation of e-cigarettes and follow through on promises to close down manufacturers who don’t meaningfully limit youth access to e-cigarettes.

JUUL, the dominant company in the market, must follow through on its action plan to cease marketing to youth and limit their access to its products.

We urge Colorado legislators to pass the recently introduced bill to raise the age for legal purchase of e-cigarettes.

Together, we can protect our youth from the dangers of e-cigarettes and vaping.

Dr. Michael Salem is president and CEO of National Jewish Health. Thomas Ylioja, PhD, is an assistant professor of medicine and clinical director of health initiatives at National Jewish Health.