By Dillon Thomas

DENVER (CBS4) – After nearly becoming law in Denver, a proposed ban on flavored tobacco products is now being considered as a statewide law. Lawmakers at the state Capitol have proposed legislation that would ban all flavored tobacco and nicotine products, something they say comes as an effort to stop a “health crisis” among younger generations.

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“We see youth using it at a rate that is alarming,” said Representative Kyle Mullica, a democrat representing Adams County. “This has been a gateway to addiction for an entire generation of youth.”

The bill (link https://leg.colorado.gov/bills/hb22-1064 ) specifically identifies flavored tobacco as a product which targets children with its advertising.

According to co-sponsor Representative Jennifer Bacon, a democrat representing northeast Denver, studies suggest more than a quarter of all high schoolers in Colorado have consumed tobacco or nicotine from a vaping device.

“When we say 25% of kids that means this is now a public health issue,” Bacon told CBS4’s Dillon Thomas.

Bacon said she believes the flavors in the products not only target youth but also make the products more addictive to adults as well. However, those sponsoring the bill at the capitol say they feel most of the advertising specifically attempts to lure in children to use the product.

“When we are looking at skittle flavors, or cotton candy flavors, even unicorn poop is a flavor out there, you cannot tell me it is not being marketed to kids,” Mullica said.

“(That) is ridiculous, and quite the contrary,” said Philip Guerin, owner of the Mixed Up Creations chain of stores in Denver.

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Mixed Up Creations employs many people in Denver and Guerin boasts of his competitive wages and healthcare offers to staff. He said a ban on flavored products is not only unfair to responsible adults but also would threaten small business owners like himself.

“I think there are solutions. But, it doesn’t involve a ban or vilifying small business owners,” Guerin said. “We are the solution, not the problem.”

Guerin agreed with lawmakers, saying he believed nicotine and tobacco products should not be consumed by children. However, he said the laws in the state should be comparable to that of marijuana or alcohol, where only those of legal age can purchase the products.

The education system is largely backing the bill, hoping to curb use of the products among their student bodies.

However, Guerin said much of the blame for the current surge of young users can be pointed back at parents and school staff. He said his staff always makes sure they are selling their products to those legally capable of buying.

Guerin said starting education on the dangers of drug use and addictions should start at a younger age, as he believes starting that education in high school is too late.

“The solution really lies at home and in the schools,” Guerin said. “If a kid took a can of beer into class, crack it open and take a drink, they would be expelled. It should be the same with vape products. If a kid brings a vape product into class they should be expelled.”

Bacon and Mullica said the proposed legislation is currently going through the committee process and would then only need a simple majority vote to move forward. Bacon said a similar discussion on the dangers of flavored use has also been had when it comes to flavored marijuana. However, that topic is not currently being discussed for legislation.

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“(Vape products) are no way, shape or form designed for children. They are designed for responsible adults. And I don’t think responsible adults have to sacrifice rights to solve a solution for the health of our children. I think you can do both,” Guerin said.

Dillon Thomas