Denver mayor vetoes ban on flavored smoking…

108 points

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock used his veto energy for less than the second time in his tenure to dam a invoice that might have banned the sale of most flavored tobacco and vaping merchandise within the metropolis in 2023, drawing criticism from those that say the mayor selected to place income over a public well being disaster.

Hancock despatched a letter Friday morning to Metropolis Council that mentioned a Denver ban could be ineffective as a result of surrounding counties would nonetheless permit gross sales and it will hurt small companies. He declined to take a position on whether or not the Council will override his veto throughout their Monday evening assembly. However the mayor supplied to work on a compromise, together with boosting enforcement of current legal guidelines, within the coming yr.

“I believe in passing and implementing effective policies,” Hancock mentioned in an interview with The Denver Put up. “I didn’t see that this bill singling Denver out would do anything to keep nicotine and vaping products from our young people.”

Public well being advocates, who argued the ban is a mandatory step to curb an epidemic amongst teenagers, blasted Hancock’s veto.

“There is no excuse for Mayor Hancock vetoing this critical ordinance, siding with Big Tobacco over Denver’s kids and the 100+ organizations who support this policy,” Jodi Radke, regional director for the Marketing campaign for Tobacco-Free Children, mentioned in an emailed assertion.

Within the letter to Council, Hancock wrote that it will be more practical and acceptable to pursue a statewide ban by way of the legislature. He advised The Denver Put up he has reached out to the town’s legislators to encourage them to draft a invoice that might outlaw flavored smoking merchandise throughout Colorado.

“Denver is one of dozens of cities in our metro area, and absent similar bans in our neighboring communities, 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,” the letter mentioned. “We cannot appropriately address the public health impacts of youth tobacco use if that public health response occurs only in Denver.”

Hancock additionally mentioned the ban would destroy many small, minority-owned retail shops.

“If we were to institute this ban only within our jurisdiction, many local businesses and business owners would experience a severe drop in their income, some may choose to locate to other jurisdictions where such a ban is not in place, and others would have to close their businesses entirely, leaving their employees out of a job. This economic disruption will be felt by Denver alone,” the letter mentioned.

The veto was cheered by those that opposed the ban.

“I can say we are breathing a sigh of relief today,”Monica Vandrusko, proprietor of Cignot, a vape store, in northwest Denver, mentioned. “We are happy to hear Hancock wants to work with us instead of just putting us out of business.”

Denver Metropolis Council accepted the ban on most flavored tobacco, together with menthol cigarettes, and vaping merchandise on Dec. 6, and the ban would have been efficient in July 2023. Underneath the legislation, adults in Denver solely would have the ability to purchase flavored smoking merchandise in hookah lounges and cigar and pipe outlets.

The concept to ban flavored smoking merchandise originated with Councilwoman Amanda Sawyer, who mentioned the dialog began after her teen daughter was included in a textual content message chain with classmates who had been attempting to illegally purchase flavored vaping merchandise.

After Hancock introduced his veto, Sawyer and the invoice’s co-sponsor, Debbie Ortega, blasted Hancock’s choice in a press release, saying, “We are disappointed in this outcome, but we don’t think anyone in Denver will be surprised to hear that our Mayor chose profit over people.”

In an interview with The Denver Put up, Sawyer mentioned, “It’s a public health issue. It’s an epidemic among our children. It’s been named an epidemic by the surgeon general.”

The difficulty pitted well being advocates towards Massive Tobacco, mom-and-pop smoke outlets and hookah lounges. However these latter teams additionally didn’t agree on how the invoice must be written, typically lobbying for their very own pursuits fairly than becoming a member of forces towards the ban.

Council’s debate over the ban stretched for months, and lobbyists put strain on the town’s politicians to vote of their favor. Some Council members mentioned it was essentially the most heated proposal they’d seen in years, and the assorted teams spent large bucks on the trigger.

The unique invoice was amended to permit hookah lounges and cigar outlets to maintain promoting flavored merchandise. Hancock mentioned he didn’t agree with the technique to carve out exceptions.

“Moreover, providing an exemption for natural cigars and hookah lounges puts us in a position of not only picking winners and losers in this ban, but also raises equity concerns that certain businesses and residents should not face the burdens this ban will place on others,” the letter to council mentioned.

The Friday veto was solely the second time Hancock has used that govt energy in his 10-year tenure. He vetoed a invoice in 2020 that might have repealed the town’s ban on pit bulls. Later that yr, the town’s voters overturned the ban on the canine breed.

Council wants 9 votes to override the veto, and it’s unclear whether or not there can be sufficient help to take action on Monday. The invoice was accepted 8-3 with two members absent.

A kind of who was absent, Chris Herndon, has mentioned he opposed the ban. The opposite council member who missed the vote, Kevin Flynn, has proposed amendments to the ban, however his workplace mentioned he’s on trip with restricted entry to e-mail to be able to remark.

Hancock and vape store house owners mentioned Friday they’d be prepared to revisit the difficulty in 2022. And Hancock promised to make use of current legal guidelines as a blunt instrument.

“We ought to treat tobacco products similar to how we treat alcohol and marijuana. If you’re selling to people who are underage, you could lose your license period,” the mayor mentioned.

Phil Guerin, proprietor of Myxxed Up vaping retailer on East Colfax Avenue, mentioned Council overreached in its effort to cease youth vaping. He advocates vape merchandise as a protected various for individuals who need to stop smoking cigarettes.

“The 30 small business vaping stores in Denver want to be treated like the marijuana shops,” Guerin mentioned in a press release. “We all use strict safety protocols, such as ID scanners, video recordings, and other measures to ensure that youth do not purchase flavored vaping products.”

However Sawyer doubts something will change if the veto stands.

Denver doesn’t have the capability to manage vaping merchandise in the identical method the state regulates marijuana legal guidelines. And if the mayor needed to make use of his govt powers to curb gross sales, he would have executed so, Sawyer mentioned.

“We’ve been having these conversations for a year,” she mentioned. “Something could have been done before now.”

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