The City of Arvada, Colorado is Jefferson County, Colorado's first community with 100 percent smoke-free workplaces. Arvada unanimously passed ordinance CB08-02, “Restricting Smoking in Public Places and Limiting the Exposure of Children to Tobacco and Smoking Products,” which strengthens the City’s 2005 Smoking in Public Places Ordinance.
This closes a loophole in Arvada’s smoke-free ordinance that exempted tobacco businesses from being smoke free. The revised law further protects all workers and the public from secondhand smoke and reduces youth exposure and access to tobacco products.
The 6 - 0 vote by Council was applauded by advocates for public health across the state, including the Colorado Tobacco Education and Prevention Alliance, the American Lung Association and the Regional Director of Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. Arvada’s 2005 law also prohibits smoking on outdoor patio areas of bars and restaurants as well as on all City-owned parks, trails and outdoor athletic fields.
Passing ordinances and laws that prohibit any exemptions, including tobacco business exemptions, is a growing trend in tobacco control policy across the nation. Local and state policymakers are aware that exemptions written into smoke-free laws have created loopholes -- allowing for unintended and unhealthy outcomes. For example, a tobacco business exemption was intended to allow patrons buying loose tobacco in tobacco specialty shops to sample the product before making a purchase. The exemption has, instead, resulted in the proliferation of smoking lounges, including hookah bars, which primarily target youth and young adults.
Along with Arvada, Greeley is the only other city in Colorado that does not allow smoking in cigarette/tobacco shops. When Greeley passed its smoke-free law in 2003, it did not include an exemption for tobacco businesses. As a result, Greeley has not experienced the impact of smoking lounges or hookah bars. City officials in Arvada never intended that the tobacco business exemption be used to open new smoking establishments -- especially those targeting youth and young adults, which is typically the case with hookah bars.
Another component of Arvada’s revised law reduces youth access to tobacco by prohibiting entry of anyone under the age of 18 into tobacco businesses and makes it illegal to give, sell, distribute or offer for sale tobacco and coupons for tobacco products to minors. Jeremy Vann, Jefferson County Department of Health and Environment’s youth tobacco prevention specialist, said, “This is a crucial step which helps to reduce the impact of tobacco marketing tactics which can be very appealing to youth.”
Two middle school students from Arvada Middle School and a Wheat Ridge High School student spoke to the Arvada City Council in favor of the ordinance at the October 6, 2008 public hearing, pointing out that youth are especially targeted by tobacco industry marketing strategies. The students, who are involved in tobacco control activities supported by the health department’s Tobacco Prevention Initiative, described how youth are influenced by the availability and visual impact of tobacco products, appealing product displays, packaging and other advertising tactics. These students spoke in favor of efforts to decrease such blatant targeting of youth.
Several other speakers, many whom are members of Tobacco-Free Jeffco, the county’s tobacco control coalition, also spoke in support of the law. By prohibiting anyone under the age of 18 into tobacco businesses and reversing the exemption for tobacco businesses, Arvada is taking the lead in the effort to help prevent youth tobacco use. Though additional steps are needed to reduce the influence of tobacco product displays, access and marketing, Arvada’s revised law is a good first step to reduce tobacco use among youth and young people.
For more information about this law and similar policy efforts to reduce tobacco’s toll, contact the Jefferson County Department of Health and Environment’s Tobacco Prevention Initiative at (303) 275-7555.