The largest city in the US state of Colorado could further exempt hookahs and menthol-flavored tobacco products.
DENVER, Colo. — The City Council of Denver, Colorado (the state’s capital) might exempt hookah lounges and menthol-flavored tobacco and nicotine products as it further considers the prohibition of sales for flavored products within the city limits.
For weeks, elected officials on the council have bitterly debated the idea of banning flavored tobacco products. Advocates for tobacco control maintain that the ban is crucial to curtailing the spread of nicotine use addiction and smoking among youth in the state. For reference, Colorado has one of the highest rates of youth vaping in the country. However, the rate of deaths and significant lung injuries related to lung injuries caused by vaping behavior remains very low compared to states where marijuana is illegal. Colorado, also for reference, was the first state in the United States to legalize recreational marijuana as a part of the state’s constitution, per Amendment 64 during the 2012 general election, which saw overwhelming support. But that’s beside the point, given that most of the vaping controversy across the United States, including Colorado, involves nicotine.
Council members have proposed exemptions for hookah lounges, citing cultural stipulations among the large community of Middle Eastern refugees, mainly Syrian Muslims, who have settled in Denver. Another amendment to the initial council ban involves exempting menthol and other tobacco-characterizing products to reflect current Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations.
Special interest groups representing the local vaping industry remain adamant that banning all flavors for open-system devices, for instance, could harm not only their businesses but could drive people back to smoking who relied on the fruity and sweeter flavors of vaping devices to quit smoking cigarettes. Nevertheless, the prime sponsors of the proposed ordinance also remain adamant that all flavors, regardless of whether the flavors are menthol or tobacco, harm children and overall efforts to contain nicotine use addiction. This line of reasoning, though, completely contradicts the current positions of agencies like the FDA. For instance, despite issuing thousands of marketing denial orders, the FDA has still approved vaping products that involve menthol and tobacco-flavored characterizations in their nicotine e-liquid.
“The youth smoking and vaping epidemic is what we are trying to solve for her,” said councilwoman Amanda Sawyer. Sawyer is a prime sponsor for the proposed ordinance to ban the sale of flavored vaping and tobacco products in Denver’s city limits.
“It is an extraordinary problem,” Sawyer said in her remarks.
Under the proposed ban on flavors, only adults aged 21 years or older can possess flavored tobacco products within city limits. However, the ban would force those adult consumers to find jurisdictions where the sale of flavored tobacco and nicotine isn’t prohibited. The model for the prohibition is similar to others.
Take the city of San Francisco, for example. San Francisco was the first and one of the largest US cities to ban the sale of flavored tobacco and vaping products within their city limits. Adults who are allowed to purchase tobacco are permitted to possess flavors but must also leave city limits to less restrictive jurisdictions and allow the sale of flavored products.
A study by Yale School of Public Health researcher Abigail Friedman concluded that the ban on flavored vaping sales in San Francisco may have led some teens back to smoking rather than vaping. She bases this theory on the comparative harms of vaping versus smoking. Vaping, typically less harmful than smoking, was considered the risk reduced maxim in the study, while smoking cigarettes was the most harmful maxim.
“While neither smoking cigarettes nor vaping nicotine are safe per se, the bulk of current evidence indicates substantially greater harms from smoking, which is responsible for nearly one in five adult deaths annually. Even if it is well-intentioned, a law that increases youth smoking could pose a threat to public health,” said Friedman, also an assistant professor in health policy, in a press statement published by Yale University in May of 2021.
Denver is the largest city in Colorado. It is also the state’s seat of government and one of the US federal government’s most important cities for environmental protection and space defense.
The city’s population is about 705,000 people, with nearly 3 million people in the surrounding metro area.