Boulder Cracks Down on Vaping, Tobacco Sales

The Boulder, Colorado, city council voted last week to ban sales of flavored vaping products, raised the age to buy tobacco and nicotine products to 21, and will ask voters in November to approve a whopping 40% sales tax on whatever vaping products are still legal. In addition, stores will be restricted to selling "no more than two e-cigarettes or four associated products, including vapor refills, to any one person in any 24-hour period."

Of course, there's no restriction on sales just outside of Boulder, and nothing stopping buyers from shopping at two stores in one day. Jacob Sullum reported in February on a study that revealed that "smokers who switch to Juul e-cigarettes see the same reductions in biomarkers of exposure to hazardous chemicals as smokers who quit without vaping." When I quit smoking about 15 years ago, vaping might have seriously eased a difficult, halting, three-year process.

Boulder's new laws come despite a warning from retired ATF assistant director Rich Marianos that the city was creating a new black market for nicotine users. Marianos said, "When we put in a prohibition, we create crime, just like when we tried to instill the Volstead Act into illegal alcohol in the 20s and 30s."

Marianos also said that cigaret trafficking is "the new face of organized crime," and that Boulder will have to divert police resources away from more serious crime to deal with the new situation created by the city council. "You’ll be taxing on your current resources and having to add on more to investigate what is going on in your black market."

He also noted that the tax revenues available will actually decline, as vape shops move outside the city limits, and vape sales move with them. That's good news for vape shops here in Southern Colorado, where taxes are lower and a more laissez-faire attitude still prevails.

Colorado Daily reports that Boulder businesses are already planning how to deal with the new restrictions. "If I am only selling tobacco-flavored products, my business is not going to exist," Boulder Vapor House owner Ginger Tanner said. Maybe she's eyeing retail space in Louisville, which is just a few short minutes away from the University of Colorado-Boulder campus.

The end result is likely to be more crime and fewer resources to deal with it, but the important thing is that the Boulder City Council has successfully signaled its virtue.