Are Menthol Vapes Banned in Colorado?

Are Menthol Vapes Banned in Colorado?

Colorado’s Ban on Flavored Nicotine Vapes

In 2019, Colorado passed House Bill 19-1076 prohibiting the sale of all non-tobacco and non-menthol flavored nicotine vaping products. This sweeping flavor ban included popular varieties like:

  • Fruit flavors (mango, pineapple, cherry, etc.)
  • Dessert and sweet flavors (vanilla, honey, butterscotch)
  • Mint and menthol flavors (spearmint, peppermint, wintergreen)
  • Herb and spice flavors (cinnamon, clove, cedar)
  • Candy or soda flavors (gummy bear, cola)
  • Alcohol flavors (margarita, piƱa colada)

Why Menthol Vapes Were Exempted

When enacting the flavor ban, legislators specifically exempted menthol, leaving menthol-flavored vapes legal to sell. Reasons for the menthol exception included:

  • Menthol was not seen as widely preferred or marketed toward youth and teens who favored fruit and sweet flavors.
  • Banning menthol could significantly hurt adult access and vaping transition from traditional cigarettes.
  • A menthol prohibition raised social justice concerns over disproportionate impact on communities of color.
  • Allowing menthol maintained an option for adult smokers while removing flavors attracting youth.

So when flavor varieties like mango and mint were prohibited, menthol avoided the ban intentionally.

Impacts on Vape Shops and Retailers

With menthol vapes remaining legal, Colorado vape shops and retailers have benefited from sustained sales:

  • Surveys show over 1/3 of vapers use menthol flavors. Keeping menthol preserved this top-selling e-liquid variety.
  • Vape shops can retain profits from menthol juice, device, accessory and pod sales versus a total flavor prohibition.
  • Convenience stores and gas stations can continue generating sales from popular menthol vape cartridges.
  • Staying compliant is easier without splitting out menthol inventory from tobacco flavors.
  • Complete closure and pivots out of vaping have been averted with menthol still permitted.

Bans on Menthol Vapes in Some Colorado Localities

Despite the statewide exception, some Colorado towns and cities now prohibit menthol vape sales:

  • Aspen – First Colorado city banning menthol vapes along with other flavors in 2020.
  • Avon – Banned all flavored nicotine vapes including menthol in 2021.
  • Boulder – Prohibited menthol vape sales citywide as of January 2022.
  • Snowmass Village – No retail menthol vape sales allowed.
  • Basalt – Menthol vape ban passed in 2021.

With local authority, additional jurisdictions may follow with menthol restrictions despite statewide rules permitting sales.

Menthol Ban Enforcement and Penalties

In Colorado localities prohibiting menthol vape sales, enforcement practices include:

  • Local health departments and police conducting retailer stings and compliance checks.
  • Responding to public tips on establishments selling banned menthol vapes illegally.
  • Monitoring classifieds and social media for black market menthol vape availability.

Penalties for violating menthol vape bans can include:

  • $400 to $15,000 fines per violation.
  • Permanent revocation of state tobacco retail licenses.
  • Confiscation and destruction of prohibited menthol vape inventory.
  • Misdemeanor charges possible for repeat violations.

These strict penalties aim to deter retailers from defying local menthol sales bans.

Public Health Impacts of Banning Menthol Vapes

Research on public health outcomes from menthol vape prohibitions remains mixed:

Potential benefits

  • May reduce youth access and transition to vaping through menthol flavors.
  • Could lower addiction risk by removing the masking effect of menthol.

Possible downsides

  • Adult smokers may have reduced smoking cessation options without menthol.
  • Black and minority communities could face disproportionate impacts limiting vaping access.

Given the complex evidence, impact on vaping rates and harm reduction from menthol bans continues debated.

In summary, menthol vapes remain widely allowed in Colorado but face growing localized bans despite less youth appeal. The FDA hopes to make a broader decision on menthol cigarette and vape prohibitions in 2023 with major health and business implications.

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