Eagle County’s new $4 per pack tobacco tax will go into effect Jan. 1
The new tax completes three-prong approach that includes raising purchase age to 21 years and instituting a licensing program
EAGLE — Tuesday night the voters of Eagle County overwhelmingly approved a $4 per pack tax on cigarettes. That fee will take effect Jan. 1.
Ballot question 1A passed with nearly 70% approval, higher than pre-election polling suggested. The hefty tax on tobacco and nicotine product sales is a 40% tax on the sale of all tobacco and nicotine products and translates into 20 cents per cigarette. The new tax will not be levied on smoking cessation products such as nicotine patches and gum.
“This really was a public health issue, particularly as it relates to youth vaping,” noted Eagle County Manager Jeff Shroll.
Chris Lindley, chair of Healthy Eagle County, the group that lobbied in favor of 1A, said the tax should generate significant revenues for the Eagle County Public Health Fund. But with any luck, those revenues will dry up, rather than increase, over time. That’s because the real goal of 1A is to decrease local tobacco use. That makes 1A one of the more unusual tax increase propositions to pop up on a ballot.
“In Eagle County, we want to be the healthiest place to live, work and play and with this vote, in my opinion, the public is saying ‘Let’s do it,” Lindley said.
Where will the money go?
There are some jurisdictional issues with 1A tax money. The tax will be charged by retailers who are located in unincorporated areas of the county. If a retailer is located within a municipality, and that town has already enacted a tobacco/nicotine sales tax, the municipal charge will be imposed rather than the county charge. If a municipality has not enacted a tax, the county tax will be imposed.
As Lindley indicated, the money will go to the Eagle County Public Health Fund for youth substance abuse programs and health education.
“This will be greatly needed funding to provide more public health advocacy across this community,” Lindley said.
While the tobacco/nicotine tax has generated the most public interest, Tuesday’s vote was actually the third and final initiative the county has championed to cut use and improve public health.
Earlier this fall, the county passed a measure that raised the legal age to purchase tobacco/nicotine products to 21 years old. That regulation, referred to as T-21, took effect Nov. 1 and is enforced throughout unincorporated Eagle County. Several individual communities have also instituted similar T-21 programs. The exceptions are the towns of Vail and Eagle. Eagle will reconsider a T-21 resolution next week.
“We are hoping all the communities pass this because we want parity across the county,” Lindley said.
Additionally, on Nov. 1, a new county licensing provision went into effect for tobacco/nicotine retailers. The intent of the regulation is to ensure every business that sells such products abides by the same regulations.
“This was a very strategic, three-pronged approach to prevent the use of these products,” Lindley said. “For all three to be enacted at the same time shows we are using strong policy to push public health initiatives in the community. I really see this effort as something other communities will be following next year.”
In the aftermath of Tuesday’s landslide win, Lindley said he was excited to see such overwhelming support for 1A.
“I was thrilled because this is really the community saying loud and clear that youth health is a key priority for all of us,” he said.
While policymakers are celebrating a big drop in Colorado’s individual health insurance prices for 2020, they’re also scrambling to combat the sharp decline in the number of carriers in rural parts of the state where 22 of 64 counties have just one option on the Obamacare marketplace.