Colorado’s governor opposes bill to ban flavored…

This Jan. 2, 2020, file photograph reveals flavored vaping liquids and gadgets on show on the retailer in New York. New York lawmakers may ban flavored tobacco merchandise together with vape pens and menthol cigarettes amid rising concern over the tobacco trade’s use of flavorings to draw younger individuals and African-Americans. A spokesman mentioned Monday, Jan. 13 that the Democratic Senate Majority plans to go a ban on the sale of flavored e-cigarettes and prohibition on smokeless flavored tobacco merchandise as quickly as the next week. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)

Gov. Jared Polis says he doesn’t assist a bipartisan invoice that will ban the sale of flavored tobacco and nicotine merchandise, together with menthol cigarettes, as a result of he prefers an area regulatory method. 

But some metropolis and county leaders explicitly assist the measure, now stalled within the legislature, and two organizations that signify native governments and fiercely defend their local-control powers, the Colorado Municipal League and Colorado Counties Inc., aren’t combating it. 

There’s one more reason the Democratic governor might oppose House Bill 1064, which is aimed toward lowering teen nicotine use: It would siphon as a lot as $25.2 million — of an anticipated $167.7 million — in annual tax income from the state’s fledgling preschool program, a signature Polis initiative. 

The debate this yr over House Bill 1064 highlights the outsize function the tobacco trade performs within the Colorado Capitol, the place it efficiently defeated efforts to extend tobacco taxes in 2016 and 2019.  

In 2020, the Polis administration negotiated with tobacco big Altria, the maker of Marlboro cigarettes, on a invoice that positioned a measure on the poll to boost cigarette and tobacco taxes and enact a tax on nicotine merchandise, together with vape cartridges. The measure, Proposition EE, handed, elevating hundreds of thousands of {dollars} to fund free preschool slots and serving to the governor accomplish a marketing campaign promise.  

This yr, House Bill 1064, which is aimed toward outlawing merchandise that critics say market to youngsters with fruity flavors and colourful packaging, is drawing related tobacco trade curiosity.

The measure is among the most-lobbied payments earlier than the legislature this yr, with greater than 140 lobbyists and lobbying corporations representing greater than 85 purchasers supporting, opposing or monitoring the measure. That’s almost one-quarter of the complete lobbying corps.

The firms lobbying on the invoice are spending massive cash on their efforts to form the measure. 

Altria and one other tobacco big, Reynolds American, respectively spent $149,000 and $173,000 on lobbying from July 2021 by the tip of March.

The nationwide nonprofit Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids is main the cost to assist the invoice, and has spent almost $181,000 on lobbying by the tip of March. It has 25 lobbyists and lobbying corporations engaged on the measure. 

Lawmakers have acknowledged the supercharged nature of the controversy. 

“This bill has probably been lobbied more than any other bill that I’ve seen in my four years here at the state Capitol,” Republican Rep. Matt Soper, of Delta, mentioned throughout a committee listening to in March.

Others say the combat highlights the folly of making an attempt to fund important companies with sin taxes, which are sometimes meant to discourage a sure habits. 

“It’s not hard to see that that’s on a collision course,” mentioned Rep. Marc Snyder, a Manitou Springs Democrat. “The more successful you are at accomplishing the social and health policy, the less revenue you have.” 

Local management “in the eye of the beholder”

The governor declined to reply repeated questions from the Colorado Sun about whether or not he’s fearful the measure will slash preschool funding generated by Proposition EE. 

Polis has a tough time seeing how a statewide method to regulating flavored tobacco and nicotine merchandise is smart, spokesman Conor Cahill mentioned, noting that the governor signed laws in recent times giving native governments regulatory authority over tobacco merchandise.

“As a general philosophy, the governor prefers local control because our local governments are closest to the people they represent and can weigh the pros and cons and determine how to best address these kinds of issues in their area,” Cahill mentioned in a written assertion. 

A lot of cities and cities in Colorado have already handed their very own taste bans, together with Aspen, Boulder, Carbondale and Glenwood Springs. 

Colorado counties consider they lack the authorized authority to go taste bans, although a couple of have elevated taxes on the merchandise as a method to attempt to discourage their use. 

Additionally, some mayors say the native efforts have restricted impact. 

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“They’re just not working,” Edgewater Mayor John Beltrone advised lawmakers of native ordinances. “Our high school — Jefferson High — is two blocks away from a smoke shop in Lakewood that doesn’t have these restrictions.”

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock vetoed a flavor-ban ordinance handed by the Denver City Council final yr, partly as a result of he believed state motion could be simpler.

“It is not a prohibitive enough barrier if our youth are simply able to travel across Denver’s border to the nearest convenience store and obtain flavored tobacco products,” Hancock wrote in a letter issuing his veto. 

Kevin Bommer, govt director of the Colorado Municipal League, mentioned the group’s members are cut up; some assist the invoice whereas others don’t wish to be advised what companies they will have of their neighborhood, referencing considerations from vape retailers who say the invoice would put them out of enterprise. 

Some three dozen Colorado municipalities have adopted rules on youth entry to vaping merchandise which are much less restrictive than a ban, in line with the Rocky Mountain Smoke Free Alliance, an affiliation that represents about 125 small Colorado vape shops. 

Those insurance policies embody solely promoting vaping merchandise in age-restricted shops or imposing stiff penalties on these caught promoting to minors, mentioned Joe Miklosi, a former state lawmaker lobbying for the affiliation, which opposes the invoice. 

The governor’s concern about native management is “a curious position, actually,” Bommer mentioned, citing Polis’ “unwillingness to support local control on building codes and sales taxes.”

“I guess local control is in the eye of the beholder,” he mentioned. 

Health officers say the merchandise pose well being dangers

Health officers say flavored tobacco and nicotine merchandise pose a critical public well being danger, particularly for kids of coloration and people with low socioeconomic backgrounds. 

Alarm concerning the flavored merchandise dates again to no less than 2018, when the U.S. Surgeon General mentioned there was an epidemic of e-cigarette use amongst younger individuals, fueled by “new types of e-cigarettes that have recently entered the market.” Soon after, there was an outbreak of extreme lung accidents tied to vaping merchandise containing THC. 

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has tightened rules on flavored nicotine merchandise however some producers switched to artificial nicotine to evade the added scrutiny. The omnibus spending invoice handed by Congress earlier this yr would shut that loophole, and depart producers with 30 days to ask the FDA to proceed promoting their merchandise. 

At Girls Athletic Leadership Schools in Denver, faculty officers have caught pre-teens with vaping gadgets that appear to be mascara wands or have fruity flavors like pineapple, mentioned Carol Bowar, the varsity’s govt director. The merchandise are extra discreet than smoking marijuana or a cigarette, she mentioned, and college students caught with the merchandise inform faculty officers they can purchase them with out being carded. 

“It’s a really deadly, addictive substance that’s disguised as something benign. And that is what’s troubling,” Bowar mentioned. 

Nicotine is especially addictive for preteens and youngsters whose brains are nonetheless growing, mentioned pediatrician Anne Shelton, a member of the Colorado Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. That group helps the laws. 

Nearly 30% of Colorado highschool college students used vapes, e-cigarettes and related merchandise in 2019, in line with knowledge from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Among younger adults who use tobacco, greater than 80% began with flavored merchandise, in line with a examine by the Food and Drug Administration and the National Institutes of Health. 

But vape shops and tobacco firms say the laws would destroy their companies and drive youngsters to purchase the merchandise on-line, in different states or on the black market. Adults additionally advised lawmakers they have been in a position to stop smoking due to the flavored merchandise; greater than a 3rd of Colorado adults mentioned they used e-cigarettes as an help to stop or scale back smoking, in line with a state evaluation. 

Some small vape retailers additionally say they’re being unfairly maligned, and argue the practices of Big Tobacco firms have given the complete trade a foul title. 

Monica Vondruska and her husband opened their first vape store 9 years in the past in Denver, partly hoping to assist Vondruska’s husband stop smoking cigarettes. Their retailers solely enable clients over age 21, and their merchandise have a decrease nicotine content material than merchandise like Juul. Vondruska spent $1,200 on age verification techniques — ID scanners — a couple of years again hoping to guard staff and the shops from accusations that they have been promoting to anybody underage. 

The retailers’ common buyer is 42 years previous, Vondruska​​ mentioned. About 99% of their stock is flavored. She refuses to promote merchandise made by Altria and different tobacco giants. 

“They’re the bad players. They’re the ones that introduced Juul,” she mentioned of Altria, which has a stake within the embattled e-cigarette firm Juul Labs Inc. “They’re the ones pushing to the minor market.” 

Spokesmen for Altria and Reynolds mentioned they oppose the proposed ban as a result of it may create unregulated markets and depart grownup people who smoke with fewer choices past cigarettes.

“We agree with Colorado’s legislature that youth should never vape or smoke, but (House Bill 1064) would have the unintended consequences,” a Reynolds spokesman mentioned.

“As the latest CDC/FDA National Youth Tobacco Survey data showed, high school and middle school students’ use (in the last 30 days) of any tobacco product, including e-cigarettes, had the lowest prevalence in at least a decade,” David Sutton, an Altria spokesman mentioned.

Reynolds has six individuals and two corporations lobbying towards House Bill 1064. Its e-cigarette, Vuse, doesn’t use artificial nicotine and has pulled its fruit-flavored merchandise from the market. Juul, which additionally stopped promoting fruit-flavored merchandise, has 4 individuals and one agency lobbying in opposition to the invoice.

Bills banning flavored merchandise are among the many largest threats tobacco firms face proper now, mentioned Stanton Glantz, founding director of the University of California San Francisco Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education. 

The trade spent no less than $12 million, for instance, combating an ordinance to ban all flavored tobacco merchandise in San Francisco, a metropolis with a inhabitants round 874,000. R.J. Reynolds ran advertisements in a number of languages towards the measure, evaluating it to Prohibition, the New York Times reported. 

“They have a ton of money and they’re very aggressive and the stakes are very high for them,” mentioned Glantz, who has advocated towards the tobacco trade. “They’re fighting like mad everywhere, but they’re generally failing.”

Colorado Sun employees author Sandra Fish contributed to this report.

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