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Pitkin County’s tobacco fine applies to street sales too

Jason Auslander
The Aspen Times

Pitkin County’s proposed $1,000 fine for retailers who sell cigarettes or nicotine products to people under 21 also will apply to adults who buy the products for minors.

County commissioners on Wednesday preliminarily approved raising the county’s minimum age to purchase tobacco or nicotine from 18 to 21 despite the fact that President Donald Trump raised the age to 21 nationally in late December when he signed the country’s budget bill. The county’s action will become official law Jan. 22 after a public hearing at the board’s regular bi-monthly meeting.

The county ordinance will allow local control over enforcing the new age limit and provides protection of the county’s wishes if federal tobacco policy changes, said Risa Turetsky, Pitkin County’s health promotion manager.

County health officials have said they don’t want to punish youth caught buying tobacco or nicotine — education is the goal there — but would rather hold the $1,000 fine over the heads of retailers and individual sales and people responsible for selling to minors. Those who engineer street sales of tobacco or nicotine or buy directly for minors also are eligible to be fined by authorities if caught, said John Ely, Pitkin County attorney.

The county’s next tobacco/nicotine-related goal is to ban flavored offerings, including e-cigarettes, menthol cigarettes and menthol chewing tobacco, Commissioner George Newman said. While President Trump has announced plans to ban flavored tobacco and nicotine products, Newman criticized the administration for exempting menthol cigarettes and some other products.

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“Once again, I think the Trump Administration is falling short on that,” he said.


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