COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado — Boulder City Council Tuesday passed new restrictions on e-cigarettes, commonly known as vapes. By a unanimous vote, the board enacted a ban on all flavored e-cigarettes and vape products. The ordinance also raises the minimum purchasing age to 21, and limits the number of vape products that can be sold to an individual customer in 24 hours.
On Wednesday, the governor of Michigan also announced executive action to ban of flavored e-cigarettes. These policy makers say their goal is to reduce the growing trend of teenager use of these nicotine products.
The most recent Health Kids Colorado Survey measured youth e-cigarette use in Colorado at 27 percent, more than twice the national average of 13 percent.
In January, the El Paso County Board of Health declared teen vaping a public health crisis.
"I think the big concern is youth use in general, and now we have the lung conditions and lung illnesses popping up around the country," said Dacia Hudson, program manger for the Tobacco Education and Prevention Partnership at El Paso County Public Health.
In late August, Center for Disease Control and Prevention announced an outbreak of more than 200 people presenting symptoms of lung illnesses thought to be associated with vaping.
The barrage of negative news about vaping has deterred local vape shop owner Tanner Adams. He owns the Chief Vapor chain of stores in Colorado Springs and said his company's mission statement is to help adult smokers quit.
"Our mission statement is basically to help adult smokers get off of tobacco, live a tobacco free lifestyle," he said.
Unlike cigarettes, the vaping liquid sold at Chief Vapor stores comes in various concentrations of nicotine. That way, Adams explained, smokers can stair-step their way out of addiction if they choose.
"We can go from 12 (milligrams per liter) to 10, to 8, to 6, to 5,4,3,2,1; all the way to zero," he said.
However, health officials think the sweet, fruity flavors of these products are to blame for high levels of teen e-cigarette use.
"They're obviously attracted to gummy bear and strawberry shortcake and all the numerous flavors that are available," said Hudson from the county's tobacco prevention program.
She said there are many misconceptions about vaping.
"Vaping isn't just a harmless water vapor, it's actually an aerosol," Hudson said.
She encourages parents to educate themselves and to have a conversation with their kids about vaping.
Adams said his employees check ID for every purchase. Additionally, his products all have clear nicotine warning labels, even through there is no current FDA labeling requirement.
As for the accusation that flavored vapes are targeted to underage users, he pointed out adults enjoy those flavors too. After all, several alcohol products and even Nicorette gum are sold in fruity flavors.
The Boulder flavor-ban ordinance will take affect on January 1, 2020. In November, voters in that city will also be asked whether to impose a 40 percent sales tax on e-cigarettes and vaping products.