COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado — The El Paso County Board of Health unanimously passed a resolution encouraging the adoption of evidence-based policies to prevent underage tobacco and nicotine use.
The County declared youth vaping a public health emergency in January, in part, because of the rapid growth among young people who self-report using these products. Teenagers in Colorado use vapes and e-cigarettes twice as often as their peers across the US.
DeAnn Ryberg, Deputy Director of El Paso County Public Health said more and more young people admit to using these products each year.
"The number of Colorado teens who vape has tripled in four years from 15 percent in 2013 to 44 percent in 2017," she said.
The increased use of vaping products in Colorado is even more concerning to health officials given the recent nationwide outbreak of lung illness associated with vaping. To date, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have identified 1,604 cases of lung injury, and 34 death attributed to vaping use.
Ryberg explained that nicotine alone is an especially harmful chemical for underage users.
"Their young brain is particularly susceptible to impacts of nicotine and laying the groundwork for later addiction," Ryberg said.
The CDC considers tobacco use the single most preventable cause of disease, disability and death and warns that individuals who begin using tobacco when they are young are more likely to become lifelong users.
The CDC has recommended a number of evidence-based policy changes that are considered to be most effective in reducing teenage tobacco consumption including Tobacco Retail Licensing.
Retailers would be required to obtain an annual, non-transferable license and must submit to a minimum of two annual compliance checks for restriction of under-aged sales. The licensing policy would have a graduated penalty structure up-to and including suspension and revocation.
"We want to bring attention to the evidence-based interventions that are available for municipalities and help provide that resource and guidance as they explore options to address this issue in our community," Ryberg said.
Additional policy provision to maximize deterrence of youth tobacco use include raising the minimum purchasing age to 21, banning all flavored products, banning tobacco vending machines, and banning any coupons or discounts programs that reduce the cost of tobacco products.
They also believe setting a minimum floor price for cigarettes and products, and restricting the sales of these products within a 500 to 1,000 foot barrier of a school, daycare or playground will also help.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly attributed the El Paso County Board of Health as considering tobacco use to be the single most preventable cause of death, disease and disability. That fact is now correctly attributed to the CDC. Additionally, this story has been updated to reflect the fact that the policy recommendations that are listed come from the CDC as evidence-based best practices as opposed to recommendations originating with the Board of Health.