Colorado’s 21+ Age Restrictions on Vaping
Colorado prohibits all vaping and tobacco use under age 21 through comprehensive restrictions:
- It is illegal for 18-20 year olds to purchase, possess, or use nicotine vaping products like e-cigarettes or vape pens.
- The minimum age to buy or possess tobacco and nicotine products, including vapes, is 21 state-wide.
- There are no exceptions for minors with parental consent, medical prescriptions, or if homeschooled. The age law applies universally.
- Vape shops, convenience stores, and all other retailers cannot legally sell nicotine vapes or tobacco to those under 21.
- It remains illegal for any person to give or furnish vapes to minors under 21 in Colorado. Parents and guardians risk fines up to $15,000 if caught allowing underage vaping.
- Purchasing vapes on minors’ behalf is prohibited, even if the products are intended as gifts.
History of Raising the Minimum Vaping Age in Colorado
Colorado steadily increased its minimum vaping age over the past decade:
- As of 2016 – Sale of tobacco and vape products banned only for those under 18. No state possession age limits.
- January 2019 – Some local jurisdictions within Colorado, like Aspen and Avon, raised minimum tobacco ages to 21.
- March 2019 – Colorado mandates 21+ age for all tobacco and nicotine sales, including vapes, to align with pending FDA rules.
- July 2019 – State law expands 21 age restriction to ban all possession of vapes by 18-20 year olds.
- By 2020 – Over 25 localities in Colorado had raised minimum tobacco ages to 21 prior to the statewide law.
Penalties for Under 21 Vaping in Colorado
The consequences for vape possession by minors under 21 include:
- 1st offense – Mandatory vaping education program + $25 fee
- 2nd offense – $100 fine
- 3rd offense – $200 fine
- 4th offense within 24 months – Community service requirement
- 5+ offenses – Escalating fines up to $500
- Driver’s license suspension possible for failure to complete education or pay fines
- Mandatory nicotine/substance abuse assessments in some cases
- Parents face civil fines up to $15,000 for knowingly allowing underage vaping
Vaping Statistics for 18-21 Year Olds in Colorado
Despite age limits, CDC and tobacco survey data indicates continued vaping among 18-21 year olds in Colorado:
- As of 2019, around 7% of Colorado high school students reported recently vaping nicotine. Many users fall into the 18-19 age range.
- Approximately 13.6% of Colorado adults age 18-20 currently use vaping products based on tobacco use polls.
- Surveys estimate around 11.1% of 20-year-olds in Colorado vape regularly.
- Disposable vapes have surged in popularity among underage users attracted to sweet and fruity flavors.
- Reports show black market demand for vapes remains high in 18-21 demographic due to bans on retail sales.
Why Vaping Remains Popular Among 18-21 Year Olds
Factors driving continued vaping in the 18-21 age group despite illegality include:
- Ongoing peer influences. Friends, older students, and co-workers vape and offer to underage users.
- Stress relief and enjoyment of the head rush nicotine can provide.
- Boredom during school, work, or free time that vaping fills.
- The variety of e-liquid flavors appealing to younger taste preferences like sweet fruit and creamy desserts.
- Ease of hiding vaping with limited smoke or odor – allowing discreet use.
- Lack of awareness vaping is illegal under 21 as laws changed recently.
- Underestimating the addiction risk from nicotine vapes.
- General teenage rebelliousness and desire to act “adult” by vaping.
Why Vaping Under 21 Poses Serious Health Risks
Key reasons vaping is dangerous for adolescents and has age limits include:
- Nicotine harms crucial adolescent brain development occurring into the early 20s that governs memory, concentration, impulse control, and learning capability.
- Younger users have increased susceptibility to nicotine addiction compared to adults. Signs of dependence manifest faster with teen vaping.
- Lungs and respiratory systems also continue developing into the 20s. Vaping risks inflammation, impaired growth, and problems like reduced lung capacity and asthma.
- Flavored vape liquid chemicals pose unique risks while adolescent respiratory tissues remain maturing. Diacetyl and cinnamon flavoring are especially hazardous.
- Teen vapers have much higher likelihoods of transitioning into cigarette smoking compared to non-users – further increasing lung and cancer dangers.
Healthier Alternatives to Underage Vaping
The following activities provide safer options for 18-20 year olds instead of illegal and risky vaping:
- Picking up new hobbies like music, arts, sports, or learning new skills. These provide engagement and fulfillment without nicotine.
- Joining extracurricular clubs and student organizations if in school.
- Getting involved with volunteer work and community service activities.
- Working part-time jobs to earn income and learn responsibility.
- Sticking to supervised nicotine replacement therapies like gums, lozenges, or patches to wean off vaping.
- Spending time with friends engaged in substance-free activities.
- Switching to non-addictive vape juices without nicotine if cessation proves very difficult.
Potential Consequences for Getting Caught Illegally Vaping
18-21 year olds in Colorado caught vaping may face repercussions like:
- Graduated fines up to $200 for repeat offenses. Failure to pay can impact driver’s licenses.
- Mandatory participation in tobacco education programs. Missing classes results in escalating penalties.
- Court-ordered substance abuse assessments in some cases.
- Community service requirements for multiple offenses.
- Suspensions or other discipline if caught vaping in school, workplace, or parents’ home.
- Loss of scholarships, sports eligibility, or leadership roles in extracurriculars.
- Difficulties getting accepted into desired colleges if offenses are on record.
- Job loss from part-time roles with zero vaping tolerance policies.
Frequently Asked Questions on Vaping Age Limits in Colorado
Q1. Can 18 year olds vape if their parents buy the vapes and consent to it?
No. Allowing any vaping by minors under 21 remains illegal for parents in Colorado and carries significant fines if caught.
Q2. What state agency most commonly catches and punishes underage vapers?
Local police departments are the primary agency issuing citations and penalties to minors illegally using vaping products.
Q3. Do tobacco education programs reduce vaping recidivism rates?
Yes. According to Colorado health officials, minors who complete vaping education programs re-offend and get caught illegally using tobacco products again at lower rates.
Q4. Could medical marijuana be prescribed to treat an 18 year old’s nicotine addiction?
No. Neither recreational or medical marijuana can be legally prescribed to anyone under 21 according to Colorado laws.
Q5. How much are fines for getting caught vaping underage in Colorado?
The fines start at around $25 for a first offense but quickly scale up to $100 or $200 for subsequent offenses within 24 months.
In summary, 18-20 year olds clearly face stringent restrictions on buying, possessing, or using nicotine vapes in Colorado – but should follow the law to avoid penalties.