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Douglas County

Douglas County ordinance would ban e-cigs for kids

Proposed change would make possession of emerging products illegal for minors


The growing popularity of electronic cigarettes and nicotine-delivering vaporizers has sparked a call to clamp down on their use and possession by minors in Douglas County.

A proposed ordinance would expand the definition of banned tobacco products for those under 18 to include emerging alternate means of ingesting nicotine. The existing ordinance prohibiting possession and use of tobacco products by minors passed in 2001. E-cigarettes were introduced to the U.S. market in 2007.

A first reading of the ordinance took place Aug. 11 at the Board of County Commissioners' business meeting, where it passed unanimously.

The Douglas County Sheriff's Office has weighed in with support for the ordinance.

“There's always something new — everything is always emerging,” said Sgt. Lori Bronner, of the Douglas County Sherriff's Office. “You can't just call it e-cigs, so the wording is in (the ordinance) to cover any other products that will be created to burn or consume illegal items.”

One concern is that not just tobacco can be used in these products, but also marijuana or hash oil and forms of narcotics. Another concern, Bronner said, is that some parents believe e-cigarettes and vaporizers are not as dangerous to youths as tobacco cigarettes. That's not the case, she said.

Using e-cigarettes and vaping are sometimes touted as being safer than traditional cigarettes, as well as ways to stop smoking. Research into the long-term effects of the emerging products, however, is slim.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said the potential risks of e-cigarettes are not yet fully understood. But the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation, Division of Pharmaceutical Analysis, reported in 2014 that e-cigarette cartridges from the two leading brands revealed “the product contained detectable levels of known carcinogens and toxic chemicals to which users could potentially be exposed.”

In Colorado, e-cigarettes have been considered tobacco products since 2011, and it is illegal for anyone to sell them or any other tobacco product to a minor. Additionally, it is illegal for anyone — youth or adult — to use an e-cigarette on school property in Colorado.

The business

Nationally, e-cigarettes have grown into a multi-billion dollar industry. Retail outlets have become more common sights, including in the south metro Denver area.

One such store is Vapez Castle Rock, which has been open for business in Castle Rock for just over a year.

“We've seen an extreme growth in our customer base,” said Casey Alfrey, general manager of the store.

Alfrey said that although some people turn to their products to help them quit smoking, the biggest appeal to his customers is for big flavor and big clouds of vapor, which can be achieved by custom-building a device.

Alfrey said the store is diligent about checking IDs for all who enter and has had to turn some underage teens away.

Use by minors on rise

A growth in youth consumption has accompanied the rise in overall popularity of e-cigarettes. Use among middle and high school students tripled from 2013 to 2014, according to data published in April by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the FDA's Center for Tobacco Products.

Findings from the 2014 National Youth Tobacco Survey show that e-cigarette use (at least one day in the past 30 days) among high school students increased from 4.5 percent in 2013 to 13.4 percent in 2014, rising from approximately 660,000 to 2 million students. Among middle school students, use more than tripled from 1.1 percent in 2013 to 3.9 percent in 2014 — an increase from approximately 120,000 to 450,000 students.

“This is the first time since the survey started collecting data on e-cigarettes in 2011 that current e-cigarette use has surpassed current use of every other tobacco product overall, including conventional cigarettes,” the report states.

The report also showed that hookah smoking roughly doubled for middle and high school students, while cigarette use declined among high school students and remained unchanged for middle school students. Among high school students, hookah use rose from 5.2 percent in 2013 (about 770,000 students) to 9.4 percent in 2014 (about 1.3 million students). Among middle school students, hookah use rose from 1.1 percent in 2013 (120,000 students) to 2.5 percent in 2014 (280,000 students).

“The increases in e-cigarette and hookah use offset declines in use of more traditional products such as cigarettes and cigars,” the report continued.

In Douglas County

Paula Hans, spokeswoman for the Douglas County School District, said schools in the district have long been drug- and tobacco-free zones and have already been enforcing the prohibition on all tobacco products on campuses.

The district policy defines tobacco products as “all kinds and forms of tobacco such as cigarettes, cigars, smokeless tobacco, dissolvables, electronic cigarettes, paraphernalia and other emerging products suitable for chewing or smoking and any other product that is packaged for smoking.” The policy outlaws possession or use of these products.

A second and final reading of the proposed county ordinance — which would apply only to unincorporated parts of the county — is scheduled for Sept. 8. The public will have an opportunity to comment.

If it passes, the ordinance against possession of cigarettes and tobacco products by minors will include e-cigarettes, vaporizers, hookahs and other emerging products.

If a minor is given a citation, it will be a Class 2 petty offense and a $100 fine, the same penalty as the old ordinance.


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