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El Paso County health official reacts to Denver increasing age to buy tobacco to 21

After Denver passed an ordinance Monday raising the minimum age to buy tobacco products from 18 to 21 and Mayor Hancock signed the bill into law Tuesday, smokers in Southern Colorado are taking notice.

One might wonder, “18-years-old versus 21-years-old, what’s the difference?” But some doctors say, quite a lot.

“It’s three really critical years,” said Robin Johnson, a physician and the medical director at El Paso County Public Health.

She says as our knowledge of neurobiology has improved, we have a better understanding of how the brain develops.

“During the years from 13 to 24 are some of the most robust times that are brain develops around the frontal lobe,” she explains. “Those are executive functions: Making decisions, delayed gratification. But it’s also the time that her brain is most at risk for behaviors such as addiction.”

Colorado has the highest rates of children and teens vaping in the nation. And according to a recent study, nearly 56 percent of El Paso youth believe it’s easy to get their hands on tobacco.

Johnson says upping the age is moving in the right direction. “Making it more difficult [for kids], putting up some barrier so people have to take a second to take a deep breath to say ‘is it really worth this much hassle?'”

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Denver’s city council voted unanimously Monday night to pass an ordinance raising the minimum age to buy tobacco products from 18 to 21, effective immediately.

Under these new regulations, stores will be required to renew their license each year allowing them to continue to sell products containing nicotine, report our news partners at KUSA.

Any new store wanting to sell these products must be over 1,000 feet away from schools or recreation centers.

Although the ordinance went into effect immediately, businesses won’t be formally cited for violations until three months later. They must have their new license to sell by January 1, 2021.

This vote comes after Gov. Jared Polis signed a bill permitting individual cities to pass their own tobacco policies, report 9News.

Several other Colorado cities have passed similar policies: Aspen, Avon, Basalt, and Carbondale.

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