Denver, CO

Flavored tobacco fight erupts on Front Range

David Heitz

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Several people have spoken recently during City Council meetings on the Front Range about the dangers of flavored tobacco. One retailer spoke in favor of flavored tobacco sales at the Aug. 2 Denver City Council meeting.

Physicians, parents, and others have spoken during public comment periods at City Councils all over the Denver metro area the past few months, including in Boulder and in Aurora. They have argued that a flavored tobacco ban aimed at keeping kids from getting hooked is a must.

Davinder Sandhu said during Monday’s Denver City Council meeting that he owns three convenience stores in the Denver area and one in unincorporated Adams County. He said he has been in business 14 years and has 12 employees.

“I do appreciate your concerns about children,” Sandhu said, adding he has young children of his own. But he said the law already requires employees to ask for ID when selling vape pens. “We make sure that these products do not fall into youngsters’ hands.”

He said that to ban flavored tobacco products altogether, as many seek to do, “will create a mystique about them inspired by the unregulated black market. Denver retailers would be disadvantaged from other retailers.”

Front Range sees ‘teen smoking epidemic’

Also Monday, Michael Ruddick, policy manager for Healthier Colorado, spoke in favor of a ban during Denver's City Council meeting. He said the Front Range is amid a “teen smoking epidemic.” That’s why he wants to ban the sale of flavored tobacco products, which he said are marketed at children. “It’s a really big problem here and across the state.”

He said more than 1,400 children per year become smokers in Colorado. “Seventy percent said they start to smoke due to a variety of available flavor. Once nicotine is introduced to the body, long-term habits can form.”

None of the city councils have responded to residents’ concerns about flavored nicotine. But the number of people speaking on the topic each week is on the rise.

“Banning the sale of these tobacco products is a lifeline to an entire generation,” Ruddick said.

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I have been in the news business more than 30 years, spending much of my career at some of the best newspapers in the country. Today, I specialize in Denver local news, health reporting, social justice issues, addiction/recovery/mental health news, and topics surrounding homelessness and human trafficking.

Denver, CO
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