Public Health - News

Posted on: April 19, 2017

Communities in Jefferson County, Colorado, are Taking Youth Tobacco Prevention Seriously

Jefferson County, CO — The City of Golden is making good on its initiative to protect youth from tobacco by holding tobacco retailers accountable to the City’s non-cigarette tobacco retailer licensing law. The Golden Police Department recently conducted compliance inspections of non-cigarette tobacco retailers in the City of Golden, resulting in the suspension of one retailer’s license to sell non-cigarette products for a period of seven days because it sold tobacco to a minor. Suspending sales for a designated period is believed to be more effective at changing retailer practices than issuing a fine, which is the more common penalty for violations. Golden is the first city in Colorado to require a retailer to suspend sales of these products as a result of violating a local licensing law.


The City of Golden is one of eight Colorado communities that have enacted a tobacco retailer licensing law in effort to protect youth from tobacco. The law requires that all tobacco retailers located in the City purchase an annual license to sell non-cigarette tobacco products, including, but not limited to, chew or spit tobacco, cigars, cigarillos, snus, pipe tobacco, dissolvable tobacco, electronic cigarettes and other vaporizing devices. Most recently, the City of Edgewater, also located in Jefferson County, Colorado, passed a similar law but was the first in the state to include all forms of tobacco, including cigarettes.


It is important that communities stay vigilant in standing up to the tobacco industry and protecting youth from tobacco. 95% of Big Tobacco’s $9 billion ad budget is spent on tactics in the retail setting. These tactics, such as product and advertising placement and pricing schemes, are known to influence youth towards smoking, contributing to increased initiation, experimentation and regular smoking. Additionally, cigarettes are advertised most heavily in stores where adolescents shop. The influence and impact of these tactics can be reduced by laws that include mandatory retail licensing.


Licensing tobacco retailers is a proven strategy that helps prevent illegal sales of tobacco to minors and reduces youth access and use of tobacco. According to the 2015 Healthy Kids Colorado Survey (HKCS), two out of three underage Colorado youth who attempted to purchase cigarettes were able to buy cigarettes. In addition to reducing illegal sales, tobacco retailer licensing serves as a means to better enforce all current tobacco-related laws, including state and federal, and to increase certain youth-specific protections such as prohibiting self-service displays, increasing clerk age to sell tobacco and limiting the number of tobacco retailers located near schools. Communities can even choose to include certain drug paraphernalia, such as pipes and rolling papers, to be covered by a tobacco retail licensing law. Licensing laws also help identify where tobacco products are being sold, similar to licensing laws that apply to alcohol and marijuana retailers.


Communities and states that have implemented and evaluated tobacco retail licensing and related laws as part of a comprehensive approach designed to make it harder for youth to access and use tobacco, report that these types of laws work. On average, there has been a 76% reduction of illegal tobacco sales to minors across the eight Colorado communities that have licensing laws.


Additional communities in Colorado are actively considering tobacco retailer licensing laws. In Jefferson County, community members in the City of Lakewood expressed concerns about the problem of youth access to and use of tobacco in Lakewood at a recent Lakewood City Council meeting. Colorado and federal agencies charged with conducting compliance checks of tobacco retailers show that the 2016 rate of illegal sales to minors in Lakewood are greater than the rate for Colorado overall. Watch a video highlighting the Citizens for a Healthier Lakewood Coalition and the Lakewood High School Breathe Easy (BE) Team’s efforts to advocate for youth tobacco prevention: bit.ly/2oFQ1S8.


According to the Surgeon General, 90% of people who use tobacco start before the age of 18. Despite data showing a steady decrease in youth use of cigarettes and some other types of tobacco products, the overall rate of youth tobacco use remains steady due to a sharp increase of e-cigarette and cigar use, products that are frequently flavored to attract youth. The Surgeon General reports that in 2015 more than a quarter of sixth through twelfth-grade students had tried e-cigarettes, and the 2015 HKCS shows that more than 38% of Colorado high school students are regular tobacco (including e-cigarette) users.


Nicotine is a highly addictive, harmful drug. The Surgeon General states that the nicotine in e-cigarettes and other tobacco products can prime the adolescent brain for addiction to other drugs. Additionally, e-cigarette cartridges may be filled with substances other than nicotine, thus possibly serving as a new and potentially dangerous way to deliver other drugs. Both Golden and Edgewater’s licensing laws include e-cigarettes to further protect youth from the harmful effects of nicotine.


Jefferson County Public Health congratulates Golden and Edgewater for all they have done and continue to do to keep tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, out of the hands of youth. To learn more about community-level solutions to the problem of youth tobacco use and how to get involved in local tobacco prevention efforts, visit www.tobaccofreejeffco.com/youth, email [email protected], or call 303-275-7555. 

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