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Lakewood City Council unanimously passed a non-cigarette tobacco retailer licensing (NCTRL) ordinance designed to protect youth from tobacco on Jan. 28, according to a release from Jefferson County Public Health.

The ordinance requires that any business selling non-cigarette tobacco (including vape) products in the City of Lakewood purchase an annual license. Non-cigarette tobacco includes any tobacco product that is not a cigarette, such as e-cigarettes, chew or spit tobacco, cigars, cigarillos, snus and pipe tobacco.

Tobacco retailer licensing is a proven strategy used to ensure responsible retailing, prevent illegal sales and reduce youth initiation of tobacco, according to the release.

The new ordinance will become effective March 2 and makes Lakewood the 12th, and largest, community in the state of Colorado to license tobacco retailers.

In addition to requiring that tobacco retailers purchase a license, Lakewood’s ordinance further supports youth tobacco prevention by including the following provisions:

• Tobacco retail businesses must examine customer identification to confirm that individuals purchasing non-cigarette tobacco products are at least 18 years of age.

• Minors under the age of 18 are not permitted to sell, stock, retrieve or handle non-cigarette tobacco products.

• Self-service displays of all tobacco products are prohibited, except for in tobacco businesses with age restrictions for entry.

• Tobacco retail businesses are prohibited within 500 feet of a youth-oriented facility.

While fewer youth are smoking cigarettes, the rapidly growing popularity of e-cigarettes has the potential to undo decades of declining youth tobacco use, according to the release. In Colorado, one third of high school students are currently using at least one form of tobacco – including 14 percent who currently use some form of non-electronic tobacco product (cigarettes, chew or spit tobacco, cigars, cigarillos, etc.) and 27 percent who currently use e-cigarettes. According to the National Youth Tobacco Survey, e-cigarettes are now the most commonly used tobacco product among youth, and current e-cigarette use among high school students nearly doubled from 2017-2018. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has officially declared youth e-cigarette use as an epidemic and the Jefferson County Board of Health has declared it a public health crisis.

The release states that despite existing legislation which prohibits the sale of tobacco to minors, compliance inspections conducted in Lakewood under the FDA’s authority between 2017-2018 found that 17 percent of tobacco retailers in the City of Lakewood sold tobacco to a minor. According to the 2017 Healthy Kids Colorado Survey, over half of Colorado high school students under the age of 18 reported that it is “easy” or “very easy” to get cigarettes/vape products. The NCTRL ordinance is intended to lower these statistics and perceptions.

The annual license fee paid by retailers will be used to fund administration of the license and strong enforcement, including local compliance checks, to ensure that retailers do not sell non-cigarette tobacco products to anyone under the age of 18. Licensing will also help to identify non-cigarette tobacco retailers that have not previously been identified and require that they comply with the law. Without licensing, authorities do not have a reliable tracking mechanism to know where tobacco is being sold.

When the ordinance goes into effect, any retailer who wishes to sell non-cigarette tobacco products must obtain a license from the city, and those found in violation of any state or local tobacco-related law could have their license suspended or revoked.