Lakewood considering a licensing system for tobacco retailers

Licensing system could become effective as soon as next year

Posted 10/9/18

Tasmin Duncan has a front row seat to see how tobacco affects the lives of teen. Duncan, a student at Lakewood High School, says she sees students sneak into the bathroom to vape tobacco. She’ll …

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Lakewood considering a licensing system for tobacco retailers

Licensing system could become effective as soon as next year

Posted

Tasmin Duncan has a front row seat to see how tobacco affects the lives of teen.

Duncan, a student at Lakewood High School, says she sees students sneak into the bathroom to vape tobacco. She’ll even see students in her classes hold in vape smoke so that they aren’t seen by teachers — something she says is known as “ghosting.”

“I walk through the hallways of my school every day, and I see tombstones. Graves waiting to be filled,” Duncan said. “Each puff is killing them. (Tobacco) takes more children each day.”

Duncan is part of the Breathe Easy Team, a collaboration between Lakewood High School and the Jeffco Department of Health and Environment that focuses on tobacco prevention and wellness, and what she is seeing in her school is a real problem in Colorado. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment said Colorado youth are vaping nicotine at twice the national average. Larry Wolk, the department’s executive director and chief medical officer, said vaping has replaced cigarettes as a way for underaged youth to use nicotine.

The problem was brought forth to Lakewood City Council from community groups and individuals like Citizens for a Healthier Lakewood who want to reduce, or eliminate the sale of tobacco products to minors. Now Lakewood City Council is contemplating an ordinance that would adopt a mandatory licensing system for retailers who sell non-cigarette tobacco products and devices. The ordinance is in the draft stage now, but it could become effective as soon as Jan. 12 of next year.

If passed, retailers who sell non-cigarette tobacco products and devices would have to pay a licensing application fee of $150 and a $450 annual licensing fee. Non-cigarette tobacco products include pipes, cigars, electronic cigarettes, cigarillos and products other than cigarettes that contain tobacco or nicotine that is intended to be smoked, inhaled, placed in oral or nasal cavities or applied to the skin, according to city documents.

At a study session regarding the matter, Mary Szarmach, the vice president of government affairs for the tobacco retailer Smoker Friendly, called the proposed ordinance harsh. Szarmach says Smoker Friendly has a 95 percent compliance rate on legal age sales, and she questioned why children don’t get punished for using tobacco.

Lakewood Mayor Adam Paul said the city has discussed that issue in the past, but he doesn’t want to criminalize children for using tobacco.

“Council shied away from finding criminal penalties for kids utilizing tobacco. I think part of it had to do with getting kids into the justice system earlier for something that is an addicting substance,” Paul said.

The first reading of the ordinance is scheduled for Nov. 26 while the second reading will occur on Dec. 10. Residents will have a chance to comment on the issue on the Dec. 10 date, and Lakewood City Council will vote on the ordinance that same day.

Lakewood City Councilman Charley Able said he smoked for 40 years and anything the city can do to stop people from using tobacco would be a good thing.

In a letter to the Lakewood Sentinel, Councilwoman Dana Gutwein wrote in support of the ordinance. She said tobacco retail licensing is an effective strategy to reduce youth access to tobacco and e-cigarettes.

“It’s time for Lakewood to license the sale of tobacco, like alcohol. This common sense, evidence-based policy helps us to protect the health and safety of some of the most important people in our community: our kids,” Gutwein wrote.

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