Denver, CO

Denver flavored tobacco ban discriminatory, some say

David Heitz

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Fine tobacco smoked from a pipe would be exempted from a proposed flavored tobacco ban in Denver.Andrew Welch/Unsplash

The Denver City Council will consider Monday banning flavored tobacco in the city with an exemption for high-end smoke.

It will be the first reading of the proposed law. There will be a public hearing following the first half of the 5:30 p.m. City Council meeting for those wanting to speak on the proposed ban. The measure must be voted upon twice to become law. The second vote likely would come next week.

Hookah, pipe tobacco and premium cigars aren't included in the proposed ban, sparking outrage and cries of racism by menthol cigarette lovers. Menthols are popular among African Americans, young people, and the LGBTQ community.

There has been heavy social media advertising by both sides of the flavored tobacco debate. Proponents of banning flavored tobacco say vaping has become epidemic among children. Opponents say the ban is prohibition at best.

Exemptions for hookah, pipe tobacco, fine cigars

In a social media advertisement by Citizens for Tobacco Rights, Denverites can send a letter to the City Council voicing displeasure for the ban. “As your constituent, I'm very disappointed to learn that the Denver City Council is pursuing a ban on menthol cigarettes and flavored dip for adults 21 and older,” the letter reads. “It is unfair and unnecessary, especially the exemptions for hookah and expensive cigars. Why can some folks buy hookah and expensive cigars, but I can't buy my product? It doesn't make sense!

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A Facebook ad opposing Denver's flavored tobacco ban.Citizens for Tobacco Rights

“We all agree that kids shouldn't use tobacco products, that's why the law is 21. But banning these legal tobacco products is too extreme and just bad policy. These products are already heavily regulated.”

Opponents of the flavored tobacco ban say it will result in an illegal market for the products. That would “increase crime, endanger consumers, and hurt small businesses and our communities,” according to the letter. “At a time where most Denver residents are just trying to get by, our lawmakers should be focused on the economy and jobs instead of limiting adult choices by banning legal products.”

Menthols hook children

In its ordinance, the City and County of Denver points out that in 2009 the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act “banned the manufacture of candy- and fruit-flavored cigarettes largely because these flavored products are marketed to youth and young adults and younger smokers were more likely than older smokers to have tried these products.”

The law goes on to read “mentholated and flavored products have been shown to be ‘starter’ products for youth who begin using tobacco and these products help establish tobacco habits that can lead to long-term addiction. By masking the natural harshness and taste of tobacco, menthol and other flavors make these products easier to use, harder to quit, and more appealing to youth.”

More than 80 percent of black smokers and 70 percent of young LGBTQ smokers use menthol cigarettes, according to the proposed law.

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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 local newspapers in the country. Today, I report on Denver City Hall, homelessness and other topics for NewsBreak, much like I did in my twenties covering Newport Beach, Calif. for the Daily Pilot. I consider myself a lucky guy to still be doing what I love after so many years.

Denver, CO
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