When Kristie Brice’s two sons became licensed drivers, she and a group of fellow parents decided that if any of them saw their children making bad decisions when behind the wheel or disobeying the …
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When Kristie Brice’s two sons became licensed drivers, she and a group of fellow parents decided that if any of them saw their children making bad decisions when behind the wheel or disobeying the rules of the road, they would call each other to let each other know.
“I made calls. And I received calls, for sure,” Brice said to Golden City Council on Sept. 12. “What happens is kids make bad decisions. Teens make bad decisions. But the net of love and caring and concern worked to safeguard our kids and our community to keep them out of danger. In the larger Golden community, Goldenites often use our eyes, our ears and our connections to protect and help others. I think this model of community care can be powerful and effective. However, it is not enough to protect our kids from making bad decisions about tobacco, particularly vaping.”
Brice is one of four local residents — all are mothers — who recently started a grassroots organization calling themselves Golden Tobacco 21 to advocate for raising the purchase age for tobacco products from 18 to 21. On their website, they’ve gathered about 240 signatures of people who are supportive of such a law in Golden.
“Vaping is on the forefront, but it’s all nicotine products,” said Monica Buhlig, one of the organizers who is a parent and works in the healthcare profession. “We value health and we value youths. We can start the change.”
Golden City Council had a lengthy discussion on the issue on Oct. 10, but decided to table the issue until Nov. 7. The three main considerations are to “increase the minimum sale age for tobacco products from 18 to 21, establish a ban on flavored vapor products and require local licensing for tobacco retailers,” states city documents.
According to Khanh Nguyen, the Tobacco Strategic Initiatives lead for Jefferson County Public Health, raising the age of sale for nicotine products to 21 is a proven way to reduce youth smoking and vaping.
“About 95% of people who smoke start before the age of 21,” Nguyen said. “The longer we can delay nicotine use, the less likely young people are to become addicted for life — especially during this time of critical brain development.”
Something that is especially concerning, Nguyen added, is that “youth vaping appears to be leading to an increase in overall youth tobacco use after so many years of steady decline.”
“Most youth say they vape because it comes in flavors they like,” Nguyen said. “These (vaping) products have the potential to hook a whole new generation on tobacco.”
Golden High School Principal Brian Conroy noted that vaping far exceeds the use of other nicotine products, such as smoking cigarettes or chewing tobacco, among youth today. Other than marketing fancy flavoring, another reason for that could be because tobacco in general smells bad, Conroy said, so “kids are moving away from cigarettes.”
He added that teens in all grade levels at the school will huddle together in restrooms or gather on the athletic fields to vape.
“We’re seeing it everywhere,” Conroy said. But “this isn’t just a school problem. It’s a societal problem.”
A big issue that further contributes to the problem of teen tobacco use, concerning vaping in particular, is that often, parents don’t understand it, Conroy said.
“Education for parents is just as important to help them understand what to look for,” Conroy said.
Youth say tobacco products are easy to get, Buhlig said. They will asking a friend, who is 18 and can purchase it legally, to buy it for them.
“Most high schoolers’ social circles include 18-year-olds who can purchase these products for their younger peers,” she said. “Far fewer high school social circles include 21-year-olds.”
Something else to consider, Buhlig said, is the importance of educating youth to make good choices because strict punishment — particularly criminal citation — isn’t effective.
“We want them to pause before making that choice,” Buhlig said.
She also stressed the importance of taking action now.
“Golden cares about our children, and this is one thing we can do to make an impact,” Buhlig said. “This is important and our youth deserves it.”
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