This month, Colorado Governor Jared Polis signed into law a comprehensive Tobacco 21 bill, making Colorado the 30th state to pass Tobacco 21. The law primarily increases the minimum legal sales age in the state to 21 to comply with the federal regulation, but also repeals any criminal penalty for minors who purchase or attempt to purchase tobacco products; previously, minors caught buying tobacco products in Colorado could be convicted and fined up to $100. These possession, use, and purchase (PUP) laws are often ineffective in reducing youth use and inequitably enforced, disproportionately impacting youth of color, so we praise Colorado for repealing this provision in their newest legislation.
In addition, the bill requires that all tobacco retailers in the state become licensed as of July 1, 2021. Newly established retailers will be banned from setting up shop within 500 feet of schools, and all retailers that sell electronic nicotine delivery systems will be prohibited from posting advertisements for these products on the exterior of their stores. The bill also updates and details statewide enforcement efforts such as raising the number of compliance checks to a minimum of two per year and establishing penalties, like fines and suspensions, for retailer violations. This ordinance exemplifies an incredibly strong state-level policy that uses licensing as enforcement. Learn more about Tobacco 21 and tobacco retailer licensing, and find a Tobacco 21 model policy here.