People rallied in Boulder on Monday to call for stricter rules on e-cigarettes. This comes as Boulder City Council is considering changing how vaping is regulated due to concerns about the high rates of vaping amongst teens. Naomi Amaha Gollnick, with the American Heart Association, told KGNU’s Rosanna Longo that the use of e-cigarettes is sky rocketing in the state.
“Colorado has one of the highest e-cigarette use in the country and that’s really alarming because we’re also known to be one of the healthiest states in the country.”
Amaha Gollnic lays the blame with the tobacco industry. “That is because the industry strategy coming into our community and promoting products.”
A new state law gives Colorado communities the ability to pass local tobacco control policies. The measure that was signed into law in March overturns a decades-old clause in state law that had blocked these local efforts to combat tobacco use, the leading cause of preventable death.
Jodi Radke, Regional Director for the Campaign for Tobacco Free-Kids, joined Gollnick and other public health advocates at a press conference on Tuesday calling for Boulder City Council to enact strong regulations on vaping. Radke says one of the major challenges is the fact that people don’t realize how addictive tobacco is.
“What we know is that nicotine is as physiologically addictive as heroin which creates larger issues for being actually able to quit.”
Colorado has the highest rate of teen e-cigarette use in the country. An estimated 27,000 Colorado high schoolers report vaping more than 10 days a month. Heath Harmon, Director of Health Programs at Boulder County Public Health, says that it’s an epidemic amongst teens.
“So in Boulder Valley we have actually an epidemic of youth vaping where 33% of our high school students are vaping and that’s a significant concern. Realistically that is more than three times at the national level.”
Joelle Rossback Dahl, a founding member of the ACT!, or Advocate for Clean Teens, says Boulder officials need to take a strong stance in regulating vaping and go further than just raising the age limit.
“The data has shown that raising the age from 18 to 21 solely is not enough to curb or have a huge impact on vaping amongst youth. The full flavor ban has been proven to be probably the most effective method since e-flavors are marketed to the youth, that is what is what is attracting the youth to using the products. The fact that they are colorful and flavors like unicorn poop and mango, I mean there’s over 5,000 flavors I think. So this truly needs to be a strong ordinance versus just raising the age to 21.”
Naomi Amaha Gollnick, with the American Heart Association, says communities of color and other groups like the LGBTQ community are specifically being targeted. “We see this through memos where they (the tobacco industry) said how they want to hook these populations because they want to guarantee their customer base for the years to come and make profits.”
Thelma Craig, Chair of Colorado Black Health Collaborative, says the tobacco industry has a history of targeting African Americans. “I can think of some of the commercials and some of the marketing…really attracting the African American community to smoke a more cooler filter that has nicotine, so it was targeted to them through the Kool jazz festival and a lot of other little subliminal messages in the media, in the magazines, to be more attracted to the menthol cigarette.”
The Boulder Valley School District recently passed a resolution to fight the epidemic of use of vaping devices by children, by advocating for changes in regulation by local municipalities to restrict access or to take flavored options off the shelf. Boulder City Council is currently considering such a measure.