Avon to consider raising minimum age to purchase tobacco products from 18 to 21
AVON — The Avon Town Council will consider raising the legal age to purchase tobacco products from 18 to 21 on Tuesday, Aug. 14.
The issue is part of the Tobacco 21 Initiative, a nationwide effort aimed at making it more difficult for adults ages 18 to 20 to acquire tobacco and tobacco products.
Locally, the Tobacco 21 Initiative is being promoted by the Eagle River Youth Coalition, which has been working with Eagle County Public Health to educate town councils and community members about policy options related to the Tobacco 21 Initiative.
Eagle County Public Health met with representatives from the town of Avon in May, spurring the ordinance to appear before the council on Tuesday.
On Aug. 7, members of the Eagle River Youth Coalition met with the Vail Town Council to discuss their various efforts, including the Tobacco 21 Initiative. Youth Advisor Gerry Lopez, an Eagle Valley High School graduate and Colorado Mountain College student, told officials in Vail that the Avon council had given him a clear message: Where there’s a will, there’s a way.
“I wouldn’t say (the Tobacco 21 Initiative) is a silver bullet to stopping use,” Lopez said. “It’s going to make it more difficult.”
Youth Coalition Manager of Strategic Impact Mikayla Curtis told the council that the current perception among youth in the community is that tobacco products have become easier to access.
“If we could help to reduce that perception, our hope is that we’ll see use of those substances decline, as well,” Curtis said.
Six states have already raised the tobacco purchasing age to 21 — California, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Oregon, Hawaii and Maine — along with more than 340 localities, according to the website tobacco freekids.org.
Among those localities are Aspen and Basalt; Aspen was the first in the state to raise the age to purchase cigarettes.
“I was very impressed by the bold action Aspen took,” said Basalt Councilman Bernie Grauer, before voting in favor of the ordinance.
Carbondale is also considering a similar ordinance after the Board of Trustees attended an information session presented by Mandy Ivanov with Eagle County Public Health.
“It really brought my awareness up about how vaping has exploded in last couple of years,” said Carbondale Mayor Dan Richardson.
Indeed, vaping is at the center of Tobacco 21 Initiative as use of e-cigs — battery powered devices that use a nicotine-infused liquid to create an aerosol or vapor which is inhaled by the user — is on the rise among youth.
A 2016 Surgeon General’s report titled “E-Cigarette Use Among Youth and Young Adults” said that e-cigs are now the most commonly used tobacco product among youth, surpassing conventional cigarettes.
“In 2014, current use of e-cigarettes by young adults 18-24 years of age surpassed that of adults 25 years of age and older,” the report concluded.
Gerry Lopez told the Vail Town Council on Aug. 7 that his generation looks at cigarettes and says “that’s disgusting.”
However, “there’s still that belief that e-cigs are healthier, or not going to be as harmful as cigarettes,” Lopez said.
And while many studies have concluded that e-cig use is less harmful than traditional cigarettes, that doesn’t mean nicotine vaporizing is not harmful, especially for the brains of young adults. Brain development is still well underway for humans ages 18-21.
“Nicotine exposure during periods of significant brain development, such as adolescence, can disrupt the growth of brain circuits that control attention, learning and susceptibility to addiction,” according to the Surgeon General’s 2016 report. “The effects of nicotine exposure during youth and young adulthood can be long-lasting and can include lower impulse control and mood disorders.”
In Avon, the intent of the proposed ordinance is to make it more difficult for people ages 18 to 20 to obtain tobacco products from the town’s nine tobacco retailers.
The proposed effective date of the ordinance is Jan. 1, 2019.
The ordinance is the third action item on the town’s agenda and is expected to be taken up at approximately 6:45 p.m. Members of the public are welcome to show up and voice their opinion on the issue.