While the minimum age to purchase tobacco products was increased to 21-years-old at the federal level in late December, a number of states have begun to play catch up in terms of getting their own language in line with that directive, largely to ensure that the laws can be enforced by local authorities. One of the latest states to see a bill filed to raise the tobacco purchasing age was Colorado, as this week HB20-1001 was filed in the legislature, which will not only raise the purchasing age but require all retailers to obtain a new license in order to keep selling such products.
The bill is being sponsored by Reps. Kyle Mullica, D-Northglenn; and Colin Larson, R-Littleton; and Sens. Jeff Bridges, D-Greenwood Village; and Kevin Priola, R-Henderson. Bridges and Mullica announced in mid-December that they were planning to introduce the bill with the thought that the U.S. Congress might not approve the increase, citing the fact that Colorado has one of the highest rates of youth vaping in the nation, if not the highest.
Beyond just raising the minimum age to purchase tobacco products and e-cigarettes to 21-years-old across the state, the bill repeals the $100 fine currently in place for a minor that purchases or attempts to purchase tobacco products. It also prohibits a retailer from permitting a person under 18 years of age to sell or participate in the sale of products, and increases the number of compliance checks that a retailer will go through to two per year, or at least the minimum number annually required by federal regulation, whichever number is greater. Retail tobacco stores would also be prohibited from allowing anyone under 21 to enter the premises.
The bill also implements new licensing requirements, mandating that every retailer of tobacco products in the state as of July 1, 2021 to be licensed. New tobacco retailers will be required to be at least 500 feet away from a school, and retail locations that sell electronic smoking device products will be prohibited from advertising those products in a manner that is visible from outside the retail location. It also increase the fines for a retailer who sells to an underage person.
Finally, the bill bans the online sale of tobacco or e-cigarette products, except cigars, unless the shipment is made directly to another retailer, which would require the consumer to pick up the products in person from that retailer.
The bill has been referred to the House Health & Insurance Committee.