Colorado Governor signs executive order; doubles vape shop investigations
Gov. John Hickenlooper is a democrat, but even he seems to have fallen for the disinformation campaign against vaping led by the Trump Administration’s FDA Chief Scott Gottlieb. Citing Gottlieb’s notorious claim of this summer that teenage use of vapor products is reaching epidemic proportions, Hickenlooper signed an executive order on Friday which targets vendors selling to minors. One of the more aggressive requirements listed includes a directive to the Colorado Department of Revenue to double the number of compliance checks on vape shops, convenience stores, and other venues.
The Hickenlooper order also recommends that the state congress increase the legal purchasing age of both vaping and tobacco products from 18 to 21. He further recommends that legislators pass the new law almost immediately, setting a drop-dead date of January 2019. According to the Governor’s website, a state-by-state comparison compiled by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) indicates that Colorado is leading the nation in teenage vaping.
“To lead the nation in youth vaping is intolerable…Collectively, we can help ensure families better understand the lifetime health impact of vaping at a young age and work to decrease the number of youths turning to this popular, yet problematic form of nicotine.”
The executive order is further supported by members of the Colorado medical community, including the University of Colorado Cancer Center and the Children’s Hospital Colorado. Since voters are unlikely to argue with a children’s hospital or a top-rated oncology center, these endorsements by medical organizations also give Hickenlooper a certain amount of political cover for taking such a controversial stance.
The Hickenlooper executive order: reading the fine print
In addition to increasing the number and frequency of compliance checks on businesses selling vaping products, the Hickenlooper order also prohibits their use inside state buildings where smoking has already been banned for many years. The governor also directs the CDPHE to issue a public health advisory on the dangers of e-cigs. This instruction could possibly drive further criticism depending on whether the advisory is fact-based or simply pure political propaganda that is neither pro-vaping nor substantiated by scientific evidence.
The governor’s executive order also directs the CDPHE to conduct research into possible links between teenage vaping and other risky behaviors like binge drinking and drug addiction. While there is already a significant amount of existing research indicating the opposite to be true, the mere mention of underage binge drinking and substance abuse in the same sentence as vapor products essentially plants additional seeds of misinformed negativity in the minds of millions of Coloradoans. Other items of the executive order include the following recommendations to the state congress.
- Recommends raising the legal purchasing age of both tobacco and vaping products to 21.
- Recommends the prohibition of sales of flavored tobacco and vaping products statewide.
- Recommends the extension of the state’s tobacco excise tax regulations to vapor products.
- Recommends all retailers of vaping products be licensed by the state (similar to the state’s current marijuana and alcohol regulations).
- Recommends prohibiting vaping in areas where smoking and marijuana use is also prohibited.
- Recommends Internet-based retailers be forced to implement point-of-delivery age verification regulations where mail carriers must verify the age of the recipient prior to delivery.
To be clear, the legal vaping age in Colorado has not yet officially changed. The governor’s executive order only recommends that the state congress pass legislation to raise it to 21 by January. If they don’t, Hickenlooper could theoretically override congress and write another executive order doing so. Other alternate lawmaking processes include a state ballot initiative like the Amendment 9 proposal in Florida where voters will decide November 6 whether to ban workplace vaping.
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