By Jeff Todd

(CBS4) – After hours of debate, the Denver City Council moved forward with a plan to ban a majority of flavored tobacco products. In a 12-1 vote, city council voted to publish the flavored tobacco ban with the amendment, which would go into effect in 2023. A final vote is planned for next Monday, as business owners worry they’re going to be forced out of business.

“They rushed it too much. I understand trying to help our youth, but you have to be very logical or very smart about how you do it in 2021,” said Rashad Kingsley-Shadi, who owns and operates a convenience store on Washington Street near Interstate 70 in Denver’s Globeville neighborhood. “You’re probably talking 20 to 25 percent of our income each year will be lost due to this bill.”

(credit: CBS)

Councilwoman Amanda Sawyer introduced the bill to address the teen vaping epidemic. Critics say eliminating the option for adults to buy products in Denver will do little to address teen vaping.

“Preventing me from selling it isn’t going to stop TikTok from selling it,” Kingsley-Shadi said.

The city councilors shot down amendments that would have exempted menthol as a flavor, and an option that would have let stand-alone tobacco and vape shops from being included. High-end cigars and hookah bars have already been given exemption. An amendment did push the implementation until July of 2023.

Store owners like Kingsley-Shadi, who are near the borders of the city, believe their customers will travel a few blocks to get the same products that could soon be illegal in Denver.

“When you start banning products we can carry, you start limiting our ability to generate revenue to pay our employees to pay property taxes,” he said. “The margins on flavored tobacco are much higher than traditional tobacco items, almost doubling the amount of profit margin.”

As the law is written, consumption will still be legal; only sales will be banned. With a likely loss of one of the greatest revenue generators for his three stores, Kingsley-Shadi says he’s hoping enough city councilors will change course before the next and final vote.

“We’re in a modern, globalized era,” Kingsley-Shadi said. “Prohibition is not going to work.”

Jeff Todd