DENVER (CBS4) – A bill that would ban flavored nicotine products in Colorado may die on the calendar with just one week left in the legislative session.
The bill was one of the first to be introduced but it only passed the House Wednesday and it still has to make its way through the Senate.
Proponents of the bill gathered outside the Colorado State Capitol Wednesday afternoon to send a message to lawmakers inside.
“We say no to mentholated products. We say no to flavored tobacco,” said Maisha Fields with Salud Family Health Centers.
Her mom, state Sen. Rhonda Fields, is one of the sponsors of the bill along with state Rep. Kyle Mullica, who joined the rally.
“We call on the Senate to vote on this bill and to pass this bill and we call on the governor to sign the bill because the health of our community is on the line,” Mullica told the crowd.
Bill supporters say communities of color and kids are especially at risk. President of the Denver branch of the NAACP Sondra Young said that African Americans have been disproportionately hurt by the tobacco industry.
“One of the leading causes in the death of African Americans is tobacco-related chronic illness,” she said at the rally.
She said that the industry has targeted Black smokers with menthol cigarettes. Fields said the vaping industry has targeted kids with flavored vape juices.
“Flavors like skittles and flavors like cotton candy,” Fields said to the crowd.
The bill would ban both menthol cigarettes and flavored vape juices.
Opponents said it would put 125 small vaping stores — employing 1,100 Coloradans — out of business, without doing anything to lessen tobacco use.
“Kids and adults will just find another way to get it — whether it’s online or from another state,” said state Rep. Matt Soper.
He said underground sales would flourish along with sales of high-nicotine vapes, like Juul.
The bill, he said, would hurt adults who used vaping to quit smoking and wouldn’t help kids who are prohibited from buying flavored products now.
“Already our kids are buying them from the black market and this bill doesn’t change that or address it,” Soper told CBS4’s Shaun Boyd.
But proponents said the less flavored products available the less chance of kids getting hooked.
“They can addict kids at a very young age and now they have lifelong customers,” said Mullica. “Today we say no more. That’s not going to happen in Colorado.”
Opponents said allowing only age-restricted stores to sell vaping products, licensing those stores and increasing taxes on nicotine products do far more to help prevent sales to kids without hurting adults.
CDC data shows vaping by kids has declined in recent years but, according to a Healthy Kids Colorado survey, 26 percent of high school students here have tried vaping at least once and the CDC says 7 percent of them vape regularly.
But 26 percent of Colorado high school students have tried vaping at least once… And 7 percent use regularly.
Even if the bill passes the Senate, it’s unclear if Governor Polis will sign it into law.