FIELDS & PRIOLA: When it comes to nicotine addiction, the right thing to do is rarely the easy thing to do


You may have heard rumblings from the state Capitol building on the current debate about whether Colorado should end the sale of flavored nicotine and tobacco products. Maybe you’ve even taken a side. 

Before you harden your views, let us speak frankly about why we are carrying a bill to do just that. The reality is, it’s the right thing to do and it’s urgent that we act now. 

Sen. Rhonda Fields, D-Aurora

In 2021, Colorado banned the sale of these products to anyone under the age of 21. A measured step that we both supported. Our hope was that this would curb the alarming increase in youth nicotine use we had been seeing for years. But now we know this step was really just a half measure. One that continues to feed adult addiction at the expense of our kids. 

Instead of reversing the trend, youth vaping is on the rise. A recent survey of Colorado youth found that one in four teens used e-cigarettes. National data tells us that eight out of 10 teens who use nicotine products start with flavored ones. That makes sense. They feature candy flavors such as bubble gum and blue raspberry that mask the harmful chemicals and addictive nature of the product. Sweet smells and small, unobtrusive delivery devices make them very difficult for parents and guardians to detect. 

Sen. Kevin Priola, R-Henderson

We know that our proposal concerns the vape shops currently open in Colorado along with the convenience stores and groceries that sell these addictive products. They want to continue to do business as usual, providing their wares to anyone old enough to buy them. To them we would say, you can continue to sell to adults the nicotine products to which they are addicted. But what you should not do, what you cannot do, is continue to sell products with cotton candy and pineapple mango flavors that are clearly aimed at enticing children to start a habit many will never be able to quit. 

We know that about 60% of the youth who use flavored nicotine in Colorado through e-cigarettes do so not because they have purchased them illegally, but because an adult in their life or in a friends’ life purchased them legally and provided them. That’s the reality. Likely addicted adults are feeding new generations of teens who will become addicted themselves. 

We have to ask ourselves, where does this end? And the answer we have come to is, with us. 

We know the tobacco industry has spent billions of dollars and countless hours of effort ensuring they find new ways to keep people hooked on nicotine. They sold it as menthol, lasering in on communities of color and LGBTQ populations with heavy marketing. They delivered it as cigarettes until too many people wised up and realized it was killing us. Then they pivoted to flavored nicotine in e-cigarettes, targeting another generation with bright colors and tasty flavors that mask their carcinogens and addictive chemicals. 

Now as we try to stop the sale of their newest creation, they cower behind individual vape shop owners who fear for the future of their small business, even though they launched that small business with the full knowledge that they were selling products that the federal government had already taken steps to ban. We understand the concerns of these small business owners and have increased the time allotted them to sell down their inventory and get out of the flavored nicotine business. They are still free to sell tobacco-flavored nicotine products to adults even after our bill becomes law. 

But what they shouldn’t be free to do, what no one should be free to do, is provide products to our kids that are more addictive than heroine and sentence our kids to a lifetime of addiction, poor health and death. 

Sen. Rhonda Fields is a Democrat from Aurora. Sen. Kevin Priola is a Republican from Henderson.  

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Lynnette Namba
Lynnette Namba
10 months ago

Thank you Senators Fields and Priola for your leadership. Ending the sale of flavored tobacco in all locations is absolutely the right thing to do. This bill will save lives. This bill will save all of us money as we all end up paying for tobacco addiction in healthcare costs. This bill will help protect the environment by eliminating products that contain heavy metals and often end up in the trash. Science and the truth cannot be refuted.

Lisa Ciarlone
Lisa Ciarlone
10 months ago
Reply to  Lynnette Namba

It is not the right thing to do. It will force adults back to smoking cigarettes and will raise health care costs. Please read this letter from Dr. Clifford E. Douglas, the founder of the American Cancer Society to the tobacco control groups. There is a lot of data and studies in the letter as well.
Please read!

Don Black
Don Black
10 months ago

I sincerely hope that Rhonda Fields’ efforts on this are better than the disastrous and badly flawed police reform bill that has crippled law enforcement in Colorado. They are afraid to talk about that bill and the vague guidelines that make policing dangerous and uncertain.

Lisa Ciarlone
Lisa Ciarlone
10 months ago

You are hurting the adults who are using these products to not smoke. I was a 28-year smoker and tried all the FDA-approved methods to quit with no success. I tried my first e-cig 14 years ago and it was a tobacco flavor. Although I like the idea, I could not stand the flavor. So I tried a few more flavors and it wasn’t till I tried a vanilla flavor that I was finally able to make the switch to vaping. I am living proof that if there was only tobacco flavor available that I would still be smoking today..

Living in a state that banned flavors I can tell you that this legislation is a trojan horse. Many adults went back to smoking here in my state and the others are either driving over the state line or buying from the black market. So you will not only be losing tax revenue but be forcing adults in your state back to smoking which will raise health care costs. Also, there are more cigarettes on the ground than there were back in 2014 now. Now when I am driving through my state I see more adults smoking in their cars with kids in them. The flavor ban undid years of harm reduction efforts and pushed adults back to the leading cause of death, smoking.

The claim that adults do not like flavors is incorrect but she knows this.

You do know that 480,000 Americans are still dying per year from smoking. Yet there seems to be no conversation about the adults who need these products to not smoke. We are can agree that no kid should be using adult products. Look how many kids die from alcohol, but there is no concern about flavors there.

There must be some sort of compromise that gives adults access to the reduced harm products that are keeping them from smoking. Otherwise, you are filling the pockets of big tobacco by wiping out the market and leaving smoking or tobacco flavor as the only options.

Keep flavors in adult stores only otherwise you will be giving the adults who are using these products a death sentence. To say these small businesses are involved with big tobacco is nuts. These shops took market share away from big tobacco.

The Kid’s excuse for banning flavors is the wrong move and will cause more death, illness, and suffering. Even Dr. Clifford E. Douglas, the founder of the American Cancer Society states this in the letter to the tobacco control groups.

Please read!

This legislation is nothing but a trojan horse that will benefit big tobacco. I urge you to read his letter if you think that banning flavors is a good idea.

There should at the very least be an amendment for adult shops otherwise blood is on your hands.