Include Licensing with Tobacco21


  • Councilperson Stacie Gilmore
  • Councilperson Paul Kashmann
  • Councilperson Robin Kniech
  • Councilperson Paul Lopez
  • Councilperson Wayne New
  • Councilperson Deborah Ortega


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Include tobacco retail licensing with increasing purchase age to 21

Dear [Decision Maker],

As a Denver resident, I appreciate your efforts and leadership thus far to consider a policy that protects Denver's kids by raising the age of sale on tobacco in Denver from 18 to 21. Roughly 95 percent of adult smokers began smoking before they turned 21. Policies, such as the one being considered, are a critical part of affecting the rate of initiation by kids and will help to eliminate a critical point of access that kids have to tobacco. We know this policy can be an effective barrier to kids becoming addicted to nicotine and tobacco, and that it has the potential to have a positive impact on public health and save lives.

The tobacco industry continues to target Colorado kids with its deceptive marketing practices, spending $140 million annually. We must be vigilant in protecting Colorado's kids from the tobacco industry's outreach and efforts to addict them.

Protecting Denver's kids does not stop at raising the age of sale. Retail accountability is critical, and without it, we fall short in that commitment.
We value your commitment to enact evidence-based policies that prevent youth initiation of tobacco, but without tobacco retail licensure, the policy lacks in its ability to be effective when we do not know who our tobacco retailers are and are unable to enforce the policy. Retail accountability is critical in strengthening this policy, and without it, we fall short in that commitment. A study published in JAMA Pediatrics from the University of Colorado Cancer Center found that over half of the retailer stores sampled in Colorado sell tobacco to minors during compliance checks.

In Carbondale, CO, a community that adopted Tobacco 21 (2018) without licensure, the retail violation rate was reported at 40 percent. By way of comparison, Manitou Springs, Pueblo and Fountain (all cities with licensure requirements since 2011) reported a violation rate of sale to minors of less than 5 percent. These numbers reflect national trends.

Tobacco retail licensure has demonstrated its effectiveness in Colorado with the cities that have required licensure by significantly increasing compliance levels by our retailers, diminishing illegal sales to kids and subsequently decreasing their use.

We strongly advise states and localities to include licensure of tobacco retailers as a crucial factor in establishing a higher age of sale for retailers and enforcing it as it has been proven to reduce use rates among kids.

[Your Name]
[Your Address]
[City, State ZIP]
[Your Email]