As the room filled to the brim and the room buzzed with heated conversation on both sides of the youth tobacco problem, several Salida High School (SHS) students who serve on the Extraordinary Teen Council took their seats up front in the Salida City Council Chambers one evening last week. They were there to speak in support of a new proposed Salida city tobacco ordinance, an issue they have been passionately involved with for some time now. Worried looks showed on faces of the newer members, while seasoned members were confident-they had done this before and calmed their younger colleagues.
The ordinance proposed to raise the age of tobacco sales to 21, ban flavors and enact retail licensing of all tobacco products. When paired with a retailer licensing ordinance, raising the age of legal sale to 21 is proven to greatly decrease the number of youth that start using tobacco products, in one community by 50%. More than 12 states and 475+ communities have raised the age to 21. The current perception among the majority of youth is that tobacco and vape products are easy to get so hopefully this ordinance will change that. Furthermore, tobacco licensing will allow for stricter enforcement of the law and in places where there are strong tobacco retail licenses, teens were 33% less likely to start smoking or vaping. Local licenses are required in Colorado to sell marijuana, alcohol, ice and Christmas trees, but not for tobacco, until recently. Flavors such as those found in vapes (cotton candy, mango, gummy bear, and mint to name a few) are the reason 80% of teens start using tobacco products and research shows early use of a substance greatly increases the risk of abuse later on, so there is great cause for concern.
Several ETC youth spoke passionately in support of the ordinance and after hearing from many on both sides, the city council voted to raise sales to 21 and institute tobacco licensing. They will continue gathering data on the flavor issue and revisit that at a later date. As impatient as we may be to institute changes that we know will benefit our youth, we must realize there is another side which we have to consider, and know that for the time being we have significantly decreased youth access to tobacco products. Congratulations to ETC members for a job well done!