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Why T21?

Updated: Oct 31, 2019

Colorado youth are vaping nicotine at twice the national average, 27% of Colorado high school youth reported using an electronic vapor product in the past 30 days. According to local local Healthy Kids Colorado Survey results, Eagle County is no exception and even above state rates, with nearly 40% of local high school youth reporting using an electronic vapor product in the past 30 days (that was from the 2017 results, we will find out 2019 data this November).

A local license for tobacco retailers will create more enforcement and accountability ensuring that only those of legal age are purchasing.

Creating a local license will ensure funds for compliance and enforcement efforts.Local licensing efforts penalize the retailers for selling to minors instead of penalizing minors who may be facing addiction issues.

Due to declining cigarette sales (thanks to stronger policies), the tobacco industry has and will continue to develop new products to hook kids on nicotine. This is an industry that spends $140 million every year on advertising in Colorado, and that's without vape advertising factored in. 

While personal choice is a factor, we know from years of research that the environment plays a bigger role in shaping individual behaviors. Holding retailers accountable for responsible sales of tobacco products and increasing the age to 21 creates an environment where it's not only more difficult to get these addictive, deadly products, but it's unacceptable for youth to use them.

Vaping products are exempt from the federal regulations that prohibit cigarette advertising through most social and traditional channels, and they've manipulated the youth social media scene to create a culture of "cool" that promotes their kid-friendly flavors using the same tactics as the tobacco industry 40-50 years ago.

Simply raising the age without a license to know where products are being sold and enforcement measures in place with meaningful penalties will not deter retailers from illegally selling to underage youth. Penalizing youth will not change retailer behavior of illegally selling, either.  

According to CDPHE, research shows both smoking and vaping can be harmful to youth. More than 90 percent of vaping products, when tested, were found to contain nicotine. Nicotine has a negative effect on adolescent brain development, causing lasting cognitive and behavioral impairments, including effects on working memory and attention.Studies have shown that vape products can contain dangerous toxins, including heavy metals and chemicals known to cause cancer and other diseases.

Youth at age 21 are better able to assess the risk of consumption; there is significantly less impact (long and short term) on the brain, and social access for 13 to 17 year olds is greatly reduced. It is much less likely that a 15 year old will be in the same social circles as a 21 year old. However, a 15 year old comes into contact with an 18 year old every day they go to high school.  

Again, according to CDPHE, studies also show vaping is a predictor of future cigarette smoking. A study of 12th-grade students who had never smoked a cigarette found those who reported recent vaping were nearly five times (4.78 times) more likely to take up smoking one year later.

Thirty years ago an RJ Reynolds company executive wrote: “If a man has never smoked by age 18, the odds are three-to-one he never will. By age 24 the odds are twenty-to-one.” We know this is because of the developing brain, and that young people are most susceptible and primed for addiction between puberty onset and late-teens. Raising the age to 21 is based in this brain science, and the fact that the average smoker begins at age 13.7, with more than 95% of smokers having started before age 21.

Local youth behavior data demonstrates that access to these products and the social pressure to use these product at a young age is concerning for our community. We can positively change our community for the health of our youth population if we think responsibly about this decision to raise the minimum age to purchase tobacco products to age 21.

Multiple studies have shown that the risk for smoking cigarettes increases 4x to 7x for youth who use vape products compared to those who don't.

As you know, this is a hot topic not just locally but all over the nation. We need community members to participate in the discussion. Even if you can simply SHOW UP I believe it will contribute to the process.  

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