Amended ‘flavor ban’ in Colorado now allows vape shops to sell menthol cigarettes?

In American, money talks, and perhaps the most recent state to come to terms with this decades-old mantra of capitalism is the Centennial State of Colorado. In late February 2020, a bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced legislation that would ban the sales of all flavored vaping and combustible tobacco products in a thinly veiled attempt to curb underage use.

However, once these “well-meaning” politicians ran the numbers, they were surprised to learn that menthol cigarettes comprise about 20 percent of all combustible tobacco sales in the state.  Translation:  The state of Colorado would be losing approximately $40 million dollars per year in tax revenues unless they changed the wording of the bill.  

So, they did.

The newly amended version now allows vape shops and specialty tobacco stores to continue selling their flavored vapes and tobacco, but with a new twist.  First, they must adhere to age-restrictive protocols, meaning that they must follow proper age verification protocols at all times.  And second, these venues should expect to see a significant surge in consumer demand for the sales of menthol tobacco cigarettes.  – even vape shops. 

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Yes, under the new law, convenience stores, pharmacies, and grocery stores will forever be banned from selling menthol and other flavors of combustible tobacco, including snuffs.  They also cannot sell flavored vapes, which is a good thing for the vaping industry in Colorado.  Meanwhile, the state government gets to keep raking in its $40 million dollars in annual tax revenues without looking soft on teen vaping.

Colorado lawmakers change their tunes on vaping

Here’s the thing.  When the initial legislation was proposed back in February, Rep. Yadira Caraveo, (D-Denver), who is both a co-sponsor of the bill and a licensed pediatrician, was very adamant that teen vaping must be abolished at all costs. 

“Colorado is facing a vaping epidemic,” she told CPR News  “I’ve had children as young as 11-years-old in clinic talk to me about how their classmates use vape products in school.” 

But within just a few short weeks, Caraveo had completely changed her self-righteous tune.  When a journalist from the Associated Press asked her why she changed her mind, the pediatrician-turned-anti-vaping-advocate-turned-greedy-politician stated, “The impact to tax revenue was going to be really considerable.”  She later added, “I think we’re much more confident about this option compared to others because it keeps these businesses open while still trying to address youth use.”

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So, vape shops are happy.  Colorado lawmakers are happy.  It’s a win-win, right?

Not so fast.  Quite understandably, the amended legislation is angering convenience store owners in Colorado. A representative for the Colorado Wyoming Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association (CWPMA) said that the new legislation will cause irreparable harm to thousands of convenience store businesses. 

“They’re basically saying that because kids are attracted to vaping flavors, Skittles and cotton candy, the industry has to lose all sales of flavored products,” said Grier Bailey. “The state is coming in and basically taking away the opportunity to sell products that adults may want.”

But the state isn’t “taking away” flavored vapes. The state is only moving them to high-end specialty tobacco stores….and local vape shops?  What’s curious is this whole affair is how all of this is going to play out in the long run.

Will owners of local vape shops start taking advantage of the potential financial windfall that the Colorado state government has just handed them completely unsolicited? Will vape shops owners start selling menthol cigarettes now that they have essentially “cornered the market” thanks to government bureaucrats?  And how, exactly, with the vapers throughout Colorado feel about their local vape shops displaying their favorite cotton candy e-juice sitting alongside packs of Salems, Kools, and Marllboro Menthols?

Money talks?  Only time will tell.

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(Images courtesy of Shutterstock)

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