Hickenlooper executive order targets youth vaping

Teen use in Colorado is highest in nation


To address what state and health officials are calling an epidemic, Gov. John Hickenlooper signed an executive order outlining efforts to decrease the use of e-cigarettes and other vaping products among teens.

“What we are trying to do with this executive order is to beef up compliance checks for businesses,” Hickenlooper said at a Nov. 2 press conference at Children's Hospital Colorado. “It's also going to require the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to begin conducting research between vaping and some of the other risky behaviors we see with our kids.”

The order doubles the number of compliance checks on businesses that sell vapor products and bans the use of vaping products in state buildings, Hickenlooper said.

He recommends the General Assembly pass legislation on existing tobacco policy, including raising the minimum sales age for tobacco and e-cigarrette products to 21 years old.

As part of the order, the Department of Public Health and Environment issued a statewide health advisory on vaping and nicotine addiction, and Hickenlooper proclaimed the month of November as “No Vape November.”

Colorado leads the nation in the number of youth who use e-cigarettes and other vaping products, according to the most recent Behavioral Risk Survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 25 percent of high school students use vapor products and more than 50 percent of high school students have tried vapor products. That's twice the national average.

“Youth vaping, the percentage of kids vaping, is not a list we want to be at the top of,” Hickenlooper said. “But we are.”

The use of vaping products has skyrocketed among youth nationwide, health officials say. The most popular product on the market is the Juul. The discreet device resembles a black disk drive with a pod that contains as much nicotine as a pack of cigarettes, health officials say.

The pods come in flavors attractive to kids, such as cotton candy and mango. Juul Labs has faced several lawsuits, claiming the company targets youth with its marketing and falsely advertises.

Juul Labs supports Hickenlooper's call to raise the purchasing age for e-cigarettes and vaping products to 21, according to Ted Kwong, a Juul Labs spokesman.

"Underage use is directly opposed to our mission of eliminating cigarettes by offering existing adult smokers a true alternative to combustible cigarettes," Kwong said in an email correspondence. "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."

When young people consume nicotine in any form, their health and brain development are at risk, said Dr. Tista Ghosh, interim chief medical officer at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

“Early research indicates kids who vape are more likely to later smoke cigarettes, a lethal habit,” said Ghosh, adding that vaping may be an indicator of other at-risk behaviors, such as binge drinking, marijuana use or use of prescription drugs.

To not address youth vaping, Hickenlooper said, would be “irresponsible.”

“I think it's safe to say that the long term health of teens continues to be at high risk,” Hickenlooper said. “With teenagers, this is a seed that is getting planting and has the potential to lead to lifelong addictions to not just vaping, but to cigarettes.”


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