DENVER — Mayor Michael Hancock on Friday vetoed an ordinance passed by the City Council banning the sale of certain flavored tobacco products starting in 2023.
The mayor said in a statement that however well-intentioned the ordinance is, it "falls short" because it would result in a patchwork of regulations in the metro area.
He said in a letter to the Denver City Council that any such ban should be done through the state legislature and apply across Colorado because a ban in one city isn't enough to stop youths from crossing the border into a neighboring city to buy the products.
"We can work on this in a more collaborative way, and we can also move to enhance our existing regulatory framework, in addition to pursuing a broader strategy by acting state-wide or at least regionally," Hancock said in a statement. "The health of our children is of critical importance – my goal is not to stop this conversation with this veto, my goal is to broaden it.”
The Denver City Council passed the ordinance in an 8-to-3 vote Monday night. It was to ban flavored menthol cigarettes, chewing tobacco, and vaping products sold in all establishments in Denver starting July 1, 2023.
The ban would not have included hookah, natural cigars, pipe tobacco, and harm reduction tools. The ordinance defined a flavored tobacco product as any tobacco product, or part of a tobacco product, that imparts a taste or smell other than the taste or smell of tobacco.
Hancock also said the vetoed ordinance would have hurt local businesses that sell the products, many of which are small and minority-owned, and the resulting economic disruption would be felt by Denver alone.
"Many local businesses and business owners would experience a severe drop in their income, some may choose to locate to other jurisdictions where such a ban is not in place, and others would have to close their businesses entirely, leaving their employees out of a job," Hancock said in his letter to the City Council.
He said he's committed to working with the City Council to keep flavored tobacco products out of the hands of youths. He suggested steps such as additional licensing requirements and expanded fines, as well as increased enforcement of existing regulations.
Two City Council members, Amanda Sawyer and Debbie Ortega, released a joint statement saying the veto was disappointing.
"If the mayor believes increased enforcement would be effective to address this epidemic, those changes could have taken place at any time," the statement says in part. "So far, he has chosen not to do anything, but we appreciate his partnership in continuing this discussion. That said, this veto is part of the legislative process, and we look forward to another Council vote on Monday night."
Children's Hospital Colorado also said in a statement that the veto was disappointing: "Youth vaping and cigarette use in Colorado is higher than the nation as a whole, and at Children's Colorado we have treated thousands of children for preventable respiratory conditions as a result. Our doctors and nurses hear from children in clinic on a daily basis who wish they hadn't started using tobacco products, and would like to quit, but are now hooked."
Denver would have been the state's largest city to pass such a ban. Edgewater, Aspen, Carbondale, and Glenwood Springs have passed their own bans.
Boulder banned flavored e-cigarettes in 2019. In 2020, that city's voters approved a 40% tax on all vaping products.
Hancock's full statement is below:
“I share with the sponsors of this ordinance the desire and goal to reduce youth nicotine use in our city, especially youth vaping, which has become increasingly prevalent. Previously, we’ve taken steps together to reduce youth nicotine use, including raising the purchase age to 21, instituting a new tobacco retail store license and enhancing enforcement efforts. However well intentioned, this ordinance falls short. We can work on this in a more collaborative way and we can also move to enhance our existing regulatory framework, in addition to pursuing a broader strategy by acting state-wide or at least regionally. The health of our children is of critical importance – my goal is not to stop this conversation with this veto, my goal is to broaden it.”
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