The City of Lakewood Considers Solutions to the Problem of Youth Tobacco Use


The cities of Golden and Edgewater are two of ten Colorado communities that have already enacted tobacco retailer licensing laws to protect youth from tobacco, and Lakewood could be the next Jefferson County community to take this important step.

According to compliance checks of tobacco retailers conducted by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the 2017 illegal sales rate of tobacco to minors in Lakewood was 21%, which was higher than Colorado’s statewide illegal sales rate of 15%. Aside from compliance check data, the 2015 Healthy Kids Colorado Survey (HKCS) found that two out of three underage Colorado youth who attempted to purchase cigarettes self-reported being successful.

In an effort to address the issue of youth access to tobacco in Lakewood, the Advisory Commission for an Inclusive Community (ACIC) will present to the City Council on July 9, 2018, about possible solutions for Lakewood, including a potential tobacco retailer licensing ordinance.

Licensing tobacco retailers can help prevent illegal sales of tobacco to minors and reduce youth access to and use of tobacco. By requiring retailers who sell tobacco products - including e-cigarettes and vaping devices - to purchase a license, communities can know exactly where tobacco products are being sold and use licensing as a means to better enforce all tobacco-related laws. Tobacco retailer licensing ordinances can include youth-specific protections, such as prohibiting self-service displays and limiting the number of tobacco retailers located near schools. Some communities even include certain drug paraphernalia, such as pipes and rolling papers, to be covered by a licensing law.

These types of local tobacco retailer licensing laws have been in place for a number of years in the state of California and have proven to be effectivein reducing the rate of illegal sales of tobacco to minors. In the City of Berkeley, California, the illegal sales rate has dropped from 38% before licensing retailers to 4.2% after implementing their law.

Despite data showing a steady decrease in youth use of cigarettes and some other types of tobacco, the overall rate of youth tobacco use remains steady due to a sharp increase in e-cigarette and cigar use, products that are frequently flavored to attract youth and often illegally sold to minors in the retail setting. 2015 HKCS data shows that 46% of Colorado high school students have experimented with vaping, and 38% are regular tobacco (including e-cigarette) users. E-cigarettes and vaping devices, such as the increasingly popular JUUL, are not safe and typically contain high levels of nicotine. They are the most frequently used tobacco product among youth, and licensing tobacco retailers can help with reducing youth access to these products. The Cities of Golden and Edgewater both chose to include e-cigarettes in their licensing laws.

Community members are invited to attend the upcoming Citizens for a Healthier Lakewood coalition meeting on June 21, 2018, and the Lakewood City Council meeting on July 9, 2018. To learn more about protecting Jefferson County youth from tobacco, visit


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