November 6, 2018

Colorado Governor Wants Flavor Ban and Taxes

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper wants the state government to crack down on teen vaping. The governor signed an executive order directing the legislature and state regulators to address the issue next term, including banning flavored e-liquid.

“With teenagers, this is a seed that is getting planted and has the potential to lead to lifelong addictions to not just vaping, but to cigarettes,” Hickenlooper said at a press conference last Friday.

The lame duck governor proclaimed this month to be “Vape-Free November.” Hickenlooper is a Democrat in the last year of his second and final term. His successor will be elected today, and will take over the job in January. Democratic Congressman Jared Polis is ahead of Republican State Treasurer Walker Stapleton in pre-election polling.

The executive order is a cornucopia of anti-vaping innuendo and Reefer Madness-level fear mongering, including specifically calling out JUUL. Gov. Hickenlooper’s legal and regulatory recommendations include:

  • Double retail compliance checks by the end of the year
  • Institute a Tobacco 21 law, including vapor products
  • Ban the sale of flavored vapor and tobacco products
  • Tax vapor products in “a similar manner” to combustible tobacco
  • Require retailers to use shipping carriers that offer age verification at point of delivery
  • Require retailers of vapor products to be licensed
  • Add vaping to the state’s clean indoor air laws, banning it anywhere smoking is banned

The order also prohibits vaping on state property, and directs the state’s public health department to study supposed associations between vaping and other risky teen behavior like cocaine use and binge drinking.

The action follows a July Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment report that claims the state has the highest incidence of teenage vaping in the country. The DPHE says 27 percent of high school students in Colorado are vaping nicotine, according to the agency’s 2017 survey. (Not all states conduct teen vaping surveys, so it can’t actually be determined which state has the most teen vapers.)

JUUL Labs issued a statement backing the governor’s call for further age restrictions, and referring to e-liquid flavors that JUUL doesn’t sell as targeting children.

Because Colorado has had legal recreational marijuana for nearly five years, it’s possible there is confusion over vaping in the state. Vape pens filled with hash oil or concentrates are among the most popular legal cannabis products, and are almost certainly finding their way into underage hands (as all adult products inevitably do). It’s possible that there is some confusion between vaping products.

JUUL Labs issued a statement backing the governor’s call for further age restrictions, and referring to e-liquid flavors that JUUL doesn’t sell as targeting children. It’s not the first time JUUL has been willing to throw e-liquid and open-systems vaping manufacturers under the bus in an attempt to curry favor with authorities.

“Underage use is directly opposed to our mission of eliminating cigarettes by offering existing adult smokers a true alternative to combustible cigarettes,” said the JUUL Labs statement. “While we believe flavors play an important role in helping adult smokers switch to vapor technology, we also support reasonable regulation to restrict advertising and naming of inappropriate flavors such as cotton candy and gummy bear that are directed at children.”

Smokers created vaping without any help from the tobacco industry or anti-smoking crusaders, and vapers have the right to keep innovating to help themselves. My goal is to provide clear, honest information about the challenges vaping faces from lawmakers, regulators, and brokers of disinformation. I recently joined the CASAA board, but my opinions aren’t necessarily CASAA’s, and vice versa. You can find me on Twitter @whycherrywhy

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