Debbie Ortega and Amanda Sawyer
We’re facing a public health crisis in Denver, Colorado, and as elected leaders we take our responsibility to address this crisis with the utmost urgency. Denver’s kids are being lured into a lifetime of nicotine addiction, and for minority youth, the stakes are even higher.
Flavored tobacco products have long been a tobacco industry predatory tactic to hook Hispanic, Black, and LGBTQ kids to becoming life-long consumers. Whether it’s with flavored e-cigarettes, menthol cigarettes or flavored cigars, the tobacco industry has used flavors to hook young people on its’ deadly substance for decades.
In the 90’s, Latino youth of Denver’s West High School demanded that City Council adopt legislation to stop the predatory practice of outdoor advertising and placement of tobacco products in stores, especially near schools and in communities of color. I [Ortega] carried that legislation and years later Councilman Paul López adopted a sales restriction of tobacco to anyone under 21. Although Denver has taken great strides to curb this crisis, kids are still getting hooked on nicotine as early as elementary school.
The Hispanic community represents roughly 30% of Denver’s population, and over half of the enrolled students in Denver Public Schools. 37% of Denver’s Hispanic high schoolers have used an electronic vaping product. Of those, 21% tried vaping before age 13, and 24% say they use them because they are flavored. On top of this, about half of our public schools are within 1,000 feet of a tobacco retailer – 40% of which have been caught selling to minors. Kids are walking by these stores every day, enticed by a million-dollar-an-hour ad budget the tobacco industry spends to support retail sales. More than 63% of underage youth in Colorado who tried to buy tobacco or vaping products in a store said they were not refused.
The ordinance we are championing specifically restricts the sale of flavors because that’s the only way to prevent kids from getting hooked in the first place. It’s foolish to think that we can rely on the industry and retailers to act in the best interest of our kids when they have a financial incentive and long-standing history of not doing so. This is a policy supported by a majority 67% of Hispanic voters in Denver.
Denver must continue to lead in protecting the health of our children. Our youth led in the 90’s, now is the time to eliminate the sale of all flavored tobacco products in the City of Denver and stop this practice of big tobacco targeting our children. The next generation is counting on us.
Now is the time to eliminate the sale of all flavored tobacco products in the City of Denver and stop this practice of big tobacco targeting our children. The next generation is counting on us.
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