The fate of flavored tobacco products in Denver is now in the hands of city council

The goal is to keep teens from smoking. But the bill has divided council.
2 min. read
Flavored tobacco for sale at a Sheridan Boulevard gas station. Oct. 27, 2021.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

Flavored tobacco products could disappear from store shelves in Denver after a bill banning their sale moved forward to the full Denver City Council for consideration Wednesday.

After a nearly two-hour meeting, the council's safety committee voted unanimously to forward the bill, after lawmakers postponed it two previous times to discuss it and make changes.

The bill would outlaw the sale of flavored tobacco products, things like flavored cigarettes, chewing tobacco and vape liquids. However, people in the city would still be able to use them.

Unlike previous iterations, the final bill doesn't include hookah, premium cigars and pipe tobacco.

Councilmember Amanda Sawyer sponsored the bill. She wants to ban the sales to reduce smoking and vaping use among teenagers. She said the ban will limit the access kids have to these products and incentivize adults to stop smoking.

The bill has split lawmakers.

Councilmember Kevin Flynn wants to make changes to the bill, including exempting menthol cigarette sales. He said the "partial prohibition" wouldn't achieve its goal to reduce smoking among young people. He called the bill an overreach affecting adults who want to use these products. His proposed changes were not taken up on Wednesday.

Citing the impact on local businesses, Councilmember Kendra Black said she does not support the bill, adding that she doesn't think it will keep teenagers from using tobacco products. She noted there are about 20 local businesses that sell vape products that will likely be put out of business if the bill passes.

Councilmember Robin Kniech, who supports the bill, said she was uncomfortable with the premium cigar exemption, calling it inequitable, and adding these products should not be treated differently due to their costs.

Council will vote on the bill Dec. 6.

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