Letter: Kudos to Gypsum for Protecting Our Youth
Last week, Gypsum Town Council voted unanimously to pass a local tobacco retail license with minimum sales age increase to 21. In the absence of federal and state action on the issue of youth tobacco product use, it is critical for local leadership to take a stand to protect the health, safety, and welfare of our communities. The town of Gypsum is protecting our youth by restricting youth access to these lethal products. Thank you, Gypsum Town Council, for being public health heroes.
According to research, 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 accountable who illegally sell their products to kids. 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.
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.
Tackling this epidemic must happen across all levels: from teaching youth refusal skills and positive coping mechanisms, and educating parents on the dangers of tobacco product use; to systematic changes in healthcare screenings and cessation support; to school policies and procedures that consider the addictive nature of nicotine and help youth receive education, counseling, and the opportunity to right their wrongs; to local governments ensuring responsible retail practices and restricted youth access.
Through decades of research, we know local level 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. It takes a village to protect our valley’s kids. Thank you, Gypsum, for stepping up as partners in this important work to curtail youth tobacco product use.
Rebecca Larson, deputy director of Eagle County Public Health
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