Denver, CO

Denver debates flavored tobacco

David Heitz

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The City Council approved proposal to ban flavored tobacco in Denver with a few exceptions Monday.

The Denver City Council voted 10-3 to prohibit the sale of flavored tobacco, such as vaping products and menthol cigarettes. Exempted from the prohibition are hand-rolled cigars, pipe tobacco and hookah.

Voting against the bill were council members Kendra Black, Paul Kashmann and Stacie Gilmore. Mayor Michael Hancock could veto the bill.

Over the past several weeks, tobacco store owners and menthol cigarette enthusiasts have pleaded with the council not to enact the ban. They said the exemptions for high-end cigars, pipe tobacco and hookah scream elitism. The menthol cigarette ban unfairly discriminates against people of color, some alleged.

But others said the ban will improve the public health of people of color. A response to that included black people can make their own healthcare decisions, the government does not need to make them.

Vape shop owners bemoan economic impact

Store owners said they may go out of business or have to lay off staff.

Council member Jolon Clark noted that an amendment to the bill gives it until July 2023 before implementation. He said that time should be used to further amend the bill to create a dispensary store model for tobacco stores.

But council member Robin Kniech said the bill is fine as is. “Let’s not extend the uncertainty of this,” she said. “I’m very concerned that this timeline is about taking additional bites at the apple.”

Torres: Bill a step forward for public health

Council member Jamie Torres said the bill is about public health. “It really is about harm and what we can do at the local level to chip away at that harm.”

Gilmore said the argument that the ban is a public health move opens a Pandora’s box. “Then every food particle we consume could become a public health issue.”

Gilmore said an addict will get what they want regardless of a ban. Menthol cigarette enthusiasts will be able to travel to Commerce City or Aurora, buy menthol cigarettes and sell them in a park, she noted.

Gilmore and several other council members said the city should regulate tobacco stores like marijuana dispensaries. Most already work under a 21-plus model, scanning identifications and taking other measures to ensure minors don’t buy tobacco.

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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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