Teen tobacco use climbs; City of Craig asked to consider tighter regulation of tobacco
CRAIG — Young people in Craig are using tobacco products in greater numbers than their peers in the region and across the state, prompting one organization to lead an effort for new regulations.
“It’s more of a problem than we think it is here. We really haven’t solved the problem of tobacco. We’ve seen an increase in youth use of tobacco products,” said Karli Bockelman, program director for Grand Futures Prevention Coalition Moffat County.
The Craig City Council recently heard a presentation by Bockelman, which included the following statistics.
• Tobacco is still the leading cause of preventable death. It kills more than alcohol use, illegal drug use, motor vehicle accidents, murders, suicide and HIV/AIDS combined.
• 80 to 90 percent of adult tobacco users started before they were 18.
• Strong retailer licensing policies have been shown to significantly decrease illegal sales to minors.
Grand Futures has helped the cities of Steamboat Springs and Grandby develop and pass ordinances requiring licensing of retailers that sell tobacco products, and they hope to see a similar regulation adopted in Craig.
“Nicotine is one of the most addictive drugs available without a prescription. It’s reportedly more addictive and difficult to quit than heroin, yet retailers of nicotine products pay nothing to sell and have next to no accountability for making it available to minors,” according to Grand Futures’ non-cigarette tobacco retail license website.
Proposed new tobacco licensing would be similar to liquor licensing. Any fees and fines collected from enforcement would be used to support enforcement efforts, Bockelman said.
The ordinance would address all tobacco based-products, including electronic cigarettes.
“We are seeing a drastic increase in electronic cigarettes and vaping. It’s hot and trendy, and tobacco companies try to court teens,” Bockelman said.
Electronic cigarettes, or E-cigarettes, are battery-operated devices that can look like a real cigarette or a pen. The have a container that holds liquid made of nicotine, flavorings and other chemicals. When the device is on, the liquid becomes a vapor that can be inhaled. Use of e-cigarettes is often called vaping instead of smoking.
There are two dangers from vaping: health impacts from nicotine and the potential for the hot liquid to damage lung tissue.
“If it gets too hot, it can burn them,” Bockelman said.
Smokeless cigarettes are thought to have fewer risks, however, studies show nicotine is particularly damaging to children.
“It can harm the developing brains of kids and could affect memory and attention,” according to WebMD.
Selling tobacco to those younger than 18 is illegal in Colorado.
In 2011, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment convened a Youth Smoking Prevention Stakeholder group to create policy recommendations to better prevent the illegal sale to minors.
“Preventing illegal tobacco sales to youth will reduce tobacco use, premature death and disease and future health care costs,” according to the stakeholder report.
Their top two recommendations are requiring a license for tobacco retailers and increasing the penalties for violations of the state law prohibiting tobacco sales to minors.
Craig City Council has asked Bockelman to return with more information and examples of how other communities are addressing the problem.
“There are always people who say don’t put more laws on us. We are not trying to punish; we are just trying to keep kids’ hands off tobacco products,” she said.
Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or snelson@CraigDailyPress.com.