DENVER — Gov. John Hickenlooper joined some of Colorado’s leading health organizations to raise their voices in concern over Colorado’s youth vaping rate. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) recently announced that Colorado teens have the highest incidence of vaping in the country. With leaders from the CDPHE, Children’s Hospital Colorado, the University of Colorado Cancer Center and several other health groups, Gov. Hickenlooper signed an executive order aimed at reducing tobacco use and vaping among youth.
“To lead the nation in youth vaping is intolerable,” said Governor John Hickenlooper. “Collectively, we can help ensure families better understand the lifetime health impact of vaping at a young age and work to decrease the number of youths turning to this popular, yet problematic form of nicotine.”
The executive order takes several concrete steps that are within existing agency authority.
It directs the Department of Revenue to double its compliance checks of tobacco and e-cigarette retailers to ensure they are not selling to underage persons.
It extends the current prohibition on smoking in state buildings to e-cigarettes and vaping. It also extends prohibitions on smoking and vaping to the grounds of state buildings, not just the buildings themselves (i.e. it creates smoke free campuses).
It directs CDPHE to issue a health advisory on e-cigarettes and vaping.
It also directs CDPHE to investigate the association between vaping and other risky behavior (e.g. binge drinking and substance use) and identify programs to prevent these behaviors.
The order makes suggestions that the legislature can consider in its upcoming session. The six-step Colorado Tobacco Prevention Blueprint outlines concrete measures the state can take to prevent youth smoking and vaping. These steps include:
Extend the excise tax on tobacco products to e-cigarettes, vaping devices, and liquids.
Require all retailers of tobacco products, e-cigarettes, and vaping products to be licensed (similar to marijuana and alcohol). This would allow the state or local governments to prevent retailers that consistently sell to minors from continuing to sell these products.
Require internet retailers who sell vaping devices and products to implement age verification procedures, billing and shipping address matching, and the use of mail carriers that offer point-of-delivery age verification.
Update the Colorado Clean Indoor Air Act to restrict the use of e-cigarettes in public places where cigarette and marijuana use is already prohibited (many places, including airplanes, already ban vaping where smoking is banned).
Raise the minimum age to purchase tobacco and e-cigarette products to 21 years of age (consistent with the sale of marijuana and alcohol).
Prohibit the sale of flavored tobacco and vaping products in Colorado.
CDPHE is working closely with physicians throughout the state to suggest they start asking teen patients directly if they vape so more can be done to discourage it and to educate those who do vape on the increased risks to their health.
“Vaping can lead to nicotine addiction, and can be associated with other risky behaviors that can affect a teen’s health,” said Tista Ghosh, MD, Interim Chief Medical Officer for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. “Our state data shows that teens who vape are more likely to use alcohol, drugs and engage in risky sexual behaviors.”
“The vaping trend is very real and frightening, and we’re grateful to Governor Hickenlooper and to the state for taking steps to help our youth stay healthy and avoid a lifetime of nicotine addiction,” said Amy Sass, MD, a Children’s Hospital Colorado physician who specializes in Adolescent Medicine. “Children’s Hospital Colorado looks forward to collaborating with our state and local partners, healthcare providers and advocates to pursue additional policies and public health interventions that can lead to our teens being vape-free.”
While at the news conference held at Children’s Hospital Colorado, the governor signed a proclamation recognizing this month as Vape-Free November across Colorado. The proclamation highlights the dangers of vaping and raises awareness about the epidemic vaping levels among youth in our state.