Letter: It takes a village — or town, to be exact
When federal and state governments are late to respond, local leadership is imperative to protect the public health of our communities.
Recently, the Minturn Town Council voted unanimously to protect its young people, to safeguard them from the epidemic that is sweeping our nation: vaping. Colorado leads the country in youth use rates, with vaping rates among our valley’s high-school-aged youth even higher than Colorado’s statewide average.
Despite an existing law prohibiting the sale of tobacco to minors, according to the 2017 Healthy Kids Colorado Survey, more than 60% of our valley youth under the age of 18 were able to purchase tobacco products. We now hear daily reports from across the nation of serious lung damage and even death as a result of vaping. We are watching another generation once again hooked on nicotine, inevitably suffering the consequences of a serious addiction.
It is through a partnership with our youth, residents, and elected officials, that communities such as Minturn can lead the way in tobacco prevention efforts. Thank you, Minturn Town Council for being public health heroes, and for committing to protecting our valley’s youth by supporting a policy that enacts a tobacco retail license requirement and raises the age of sale of tobacco products from 18 to 21.
Through decades of research, we know these policy initiatives are effective barriers to kids becoming addicted to nicotine and tobacco and will have a positive impact on public health by saving lives and reducing disease.
95% of today’s adult smokers began smoking before they turned 21. Raising the age of sale plays a critical role in impacting the rate of initiation by kids and will, in turn, reduce future adult tobacco use rates. Tobacco retail licensing strengthens this policy by holding retailers who illegally sell their products to kids accountable to minimize the chance for recurrence. The license fee paid by retailers will be used for local compliance checks and enforcement to assure that anyone under the age of 21 is not sold tobacco or nicotine products.
It takes a village to protect our valley’s kids. Thank you, Minturn, for your partnership. We commend you for joining other towns and counties to ensure we are working together to curtail youth tobacco product use.
Deputy director of public health and environment for Eagle County