Tobacco tax and trustees to be on the Carbondale ballot
Carbondale may join towns up and down the valley in levying intense taxes on cigarettes and other tobacco taxes.
The town will ask voters to approve a $4 tax on each pack of cigarettes at the municipal elections April 7.
“We don’t want to earn more money off of smokers,” Carbondale Mayor Dan Richardson said Tuesday at the town board meeting.
The money raised will go to smoking cessation programs and other health education initiatives.
Carbondale has led the region in fighting youth nicotine use, notably pushing to ban the sale of flavored tobacco and e-cigarette products at town stores and raising the minimum purchasing age to 21.
At the meeting Tuesday, the board’s new student trustees, Diego Valdez and Grace Jardine from Roaring Fork High School, contributed to the discussion.
Valdez said he thinks the increased purchasing age has reduced tobacco use among teens.
“The age aspect has made a difference, just to make it more difficult to purchase these things,” Valdez said.
Jardine said she’s seen a similar effect. “I hear more, ‘Oh, I’m not going to buy this, I have to be 21 now,’” Jardine said.
But if kids are going to use tobacco, the increased cost won’t make much of a difference, Jardine added.
Aspen was the first town in the state to impose a version of the aggressive tax in 2017. Basalt followed the next year, and in 2019, Pitkin County, Glenwood Springs and New Castle voters all approved the tax by wide margins.
The Colorado Legislature passed a law in 2019 allowing municipalities to impose taxes, which set off a trend of towns across the state asking voters to approve the new tax.
Most of the towns and municipalities approved a $3.20 tax per pack of cigarettes that will rise 10 cents a year until it reaches $4.
But Carbondale is asking voters to approve the full $4 tax per pack, along with a 40% tax on all other products containing nicotine, including cigars and e-cigarettes.
Under the state’s TABOR Amendment, taxing authorities must tell voters how much they expect to raise from the tax, and Carbondale put the upper limit at $700,000 annually. Town manager Jay Harrington said that number is much higher than the town actually expects to make from the tax.
The goal of the tax is to dissuade people from purchasing tobacco, but that hasn’t necessarily been the case so far.
“Most communities haven’t seen a big drop-off after they put these taxes in place,” Harrington said.
If voters approve the tax, there won’t be many places to purchase tobacco without paying the tax.
The Garfield County commissioners declined to seek the new tax over concerns about legal authority to do so, meaning that between New Castle and Aspen only a few stores in unincorporated Garfield County will sell tobacco without the new tax.
The commissioners did, however, increase the minimum purchasing age to 21 and has considered restrictions on flavored nicotine.
Trustees on the ballot
Three Carbondale trustee seats are also on the ballot for the April election.
All six trustees are elected and serve at-large, as there are no districts or wards.
Ben Bohmfalk, Lani Kitching and Marty Silverstein currently hold the four-year terms expiring this year, and all three said they will be running for re-election.
Anyone interested in running for a seat on the Carbondale Board of Trustees must pick up a nomination form from Town Hall and return the completed form by Jan. 27.
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