Youth Tobacco Prevention

Despite gains made in tobacco prevention in years past, tobacco use continues to be the leading cause of preventable death in the United States,1 and far too many youth are still picking up the deadly habit. This page is intended to raise awareness and educate Jefferson County residents about the problem of youth tobacco use and ways to reduce youth access to and use tobacco products.

Effective Strategies to Reduce Youth Access to Tobacco:

  • Tobacco Retailer Licensing:
    • Licensing tobacco retailers can help prevent illegal sales of all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes and vaping devices, to minors and reduces youth access and use of tobacco.
      • 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 Healthy Kids Colorado Survey 2 data shows that 46% of Colorado high school students have experimented with vaping, 26% are current e-cigarette users, and 38% are current tobacco (including e-cigarette) users.
      • Youth e-cigarette use has been associated with subsequent marijuana use, especially among young adolescents aged 12 to 14 years. Reducing youth access to e-cigarettes may decrease downstream marijuana use.
    • By requiring retailers who sell tobacco products 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, including state and federal. This is similar to the licensing laws that apply to alcohol and marijuana retailers.
    • In all but ten Colorado communities, tobacco retailers are not required to have a tobacco license, unlike the license required to sell alcohol. This means that tobacco can be sold by anyone anywhere in most Colorado communities.
    • The Tobacco Control Legal Consortium states that policies to increase and enforce restrictions on illegal sales to minors, such as licensing of tobacco retailers, are essential in preventing youth from using tobacco.11
    • Tobacco retail licensing serves as a means to increase certain youth-specific protections such as prohibiting self-service displays, increasing clerk age to sell tobacco and limiting the number of tobacco retailers located near schools.
    • Communities can even choose to include certain drug paraphernalia, such as pipes and rolling papers, to be covered by a tobacco retail licensing law.
    • View this fact sheet and infographic about tobacco retail licensing.
    • Learn more about licensing from the Public Health Law CenterChangeLab Solutions and The Center for Tobacco Policy and Organizing.
  • Raising Minimum Age to Sell Tobacco:There is also no minimum age limit for those who sell tobacco in Colorado.
    • A 2001 study indicated that sales clerks under the age of 18 are more likely than clerks 18 or older to sell tobacco to minors.12
  • Raising Minimum Age to Purchase Tobacco:View this infographic to learn more about how raising the minimum legal sale age of tobacco to 21 can decrease tobacco initiation and addiction.
  • Smoke-Free Laws:
    • Smoke-free laws have been proven as an effective strategy to reduce youth smoking.13

Communities in Colorado that have Tobacco Licensing Laws:

Exposed to Tobacco Marketing:

  • Tobacco companies spent more than 9 billion on advertising and promotional expenses in the United States in 2014 (that’s nearly $25 million each day). 95% of that budget is spent on tactics in the retail setting.3
    • These tactics, such as advertising placement and pricing schemes, are known to influence youth towards smoking, contributing to increased initiation, experimentation and regular smoking.
  • According to Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, tobacco companies advertise heavily at retail outlets where adolescents shop, such as near schools and playgrounds, with large signs visible from outside the stores.4
  • The Surgeon General has reported that the more young people are exposed to cigarette advertising and promotional activities, the more likely they are to smoke.5
  • The tobacco industry continues to produce and sell products that are appealing to youth such as little cigars, e-cigarettes, and e-juices in kid-friendly flavors such as cotton candy and bubble gum.
  • A 2014 study published in the journal Pediatrics found that there is a link between exposure to e-cigarette advertisements and the use of e-cigarettes by middle and high school students, concluding that efforts to reduce youth exposure to advertising are critical to prevent youth from using e-cigarettes as well as other tobacco products.6
  • The 2014 Surgeon General’s report states that “the tobacco industry continues to position itself to sustain its sales by recruiting youth and young adults…as consumers of all their nicotine-containing products including cigarettes.”7
  • The National Cancer Institute also reported that tobacco company advertising targets specific populations, such as youth, by using themes that resonate with them such as smoking being able to satisfy adolescents’ need to be popular, feel attractive, take risks, or manage stress.8
  • Learn more from Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids about how aggressive marketing of new tobacco products, such as flavored cigars and e-cigarettes, threaten the health of youth.
  • View this resource for local, state, and federal organizations working to counteract tobacco product sales and marketing at the point of sale.
  • Learn facts about the lies and manipulation tactics of the tobacco industry.