DENVER — There are a lot of places you can't smoke cigarettes in Colorado. Now state lawmakers want to add the same restrictions to e-cigarettes.
A bi-partisan bill introduced in the state legislature this month would amend the “Colorado Clean Indoor Air Act” to ban vaping in the same places cigarettes are already prohibited. Those includes restaurants, hotels, and hospitals.
Sponsors and supports say it's a new effort to cut down on how many teenagers vape.
“Colorado teens are engaging in e-cigarette and vaping use at an alarming rate. As a parent of teenagers, I share the concern of moms and dads who are worried about this growing public health issue and how it is impacting their children," bill sponsor Representative Dafna Michaelson Jenet (D-Adams County), said. It’s time show our youth that this activity is harmful for them and those around them."
Last year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found Colorado High Schoolers were vaping at twice the national average.
"Coloradans decided years ago to protect our children and citizens from exposure to harmful second hand smoke in public places while still maintaining an adults right to use these products in their private lives,” fellow bill sponsor, Representative Colin Larson (R-Jefferson County), said.
“The recent rise in popularity of electronic smoking devices has pointed out a glaring loophole in current law that must be closed in order to keep these products out of the hands of children."
“This is one of our top issues at Children’s Hospital, and certainly the pulmonary section,” Robin Deterding, a pediatric lung specialist at Children’s Hospital Colorado, said.
“We’re at the very beginning of what it means to inhale, potentially, metals and these compounds. Unlike smoking where we’ve studied it for a long time, we’re at the very beginning.”
Dr. Deterding is concerned about the health risks for young vapers, the addiction risks of nicotine, and the unknown long-term risks.
“We ask kids all the time about smoking, and they'll be like, ‘No! I don't do that.’ And we'll say, ‘Well do you vape?’ And many of them, they say, ‘Yeah?’ They don't understand that that's risky,” she said.
Bill sponsors say the idea behind their legislation is to shift attitudes about vaping. While they can’t always take an e-cigarette directly out of the hands of a teenager, they hope to limit young people’s exposure to it.
“[Kids] see everybody doing it. It normalizes this,” Dr. Deterding said. “That’s why modernizing the Clean Air Act and adding e- cigarettes… is critical, because kids shouldn’t see it and think its normal and we shouldn’t all be exposed.”
“I think it’s pretty fair, especially of the goal is we don’t want kids to see you vaping and think it’s cool and do it,” said Dustin Barnett, who owns several vape shops in Colorado, including Vapor Core in Denver. “If that’s the case, keep it in here [the shop]. You have to be 18 just to enter my store.”
Barnett said his clients are usually former smokers, looking to quit cigarettes or all nicotine, with the assistance of e-cigarettes. He said most of the vaping industry is also concerned about the rate of kids accessing and using.
Though it could make things more difficult for his customers, Barnett supports the legislation.
“If the motivation they have is genuinely for the health and safety of kids, then I completely agree,” he said. “The only time that I would have any sort of hesitation towards this would be if they would take way the right you have to vape inside of a vape shop.”
Bill Sponsor, Representative Dafna Michaelson Jenet, said that will still be allowed.
Dr. Detering hopes this bill could be step one to keep kids away from e-cigarettes for good.
“The risk for their development now and their future of addiction is too much to be messing with,” she said.
Last year, federal regulators declared youth vaping an epidemic. The FDA cracked down on several e-cigarette manufactures, and demanded change.
Juul, one of the most popular e-cigarette companies, responded with several changes including halting some flavor sales and how the company promoted itself on social media. When contacted about Colorado’s bill to further restrict where someone can vape, a Juul Labs spokesperson sent a statement by email Tuesday:
“JUUL Labs shares a common goal with policy makers, regulators, parents, school officials, and community stakeholders – preventing youth from initiating on nicotine. We are committed to preventing youth access of JUUL products, and no young person or non-nicotine user should ever try JUUL. We cannot fulfill our mission to provide the world’s one billion adult smokers with a true alternative to combustible cigarettes if youth use continues unabated. As we said before, our intent was never to have youth use JUUL products. We have taken dramatic action to contribute to solve this problem, which is why we implemented the JUUL Labs Action Plan to address underage use of JUUL products.
“We suspended the distribution of certain flavored JUULpods to traditional retail stores as of November 17, 2018, strengthened the age verification of our industry leading site, eliminated our Facebook and Instagram accounts, and are developing new technology to further limit youth access and use. We are committed to working with lawmakers, the Surgeon General, FDA, state Attorneys General, local municipalities, and community organizations as a transparent and responsible partner in this effort.
"In addition, we strongly support raising the minimum purchase age for cigarettes, tobacco and vaping products to 21. We look forward to working with lawmakers at at the federal, state and local levels to achieve this end."