BRECKENRIDGE — At its regular meeting Tuesday, Breckenridge Town Council passed on first reading three ordinances and resolutions restricting nicotine sale and use. The two council ordinances proposed changing the legal age to purchase nicotine products from 18 to 21 and creating a licensing requirement for tobacco retailers, which includes an application fee. The resolution proposed a 40% sales tax on nicotine products.
During the public comment period for the two ordinances, students from the Youth Empowerment Society of Summit, a retired doctor and the director of Public Health for Summit County, Amy Wineland, spoke about the vaping epidemic in Summit County high schools and the dangers of nicotine, particularly to teenagers.
The council unanimously passed the age increase and the licensing requirement.
The resolution proposing a nicotine sales tax was argued against during the public comment period by John Cutroneo, owner of Slope Side Cigars in Breckenridge. He asked the council to distinguish between vaping products that are popular among local teenagers and specialty cigars that cater to an older, visitor demographic. Cutroneo said an additional 40% sales tax on tobacco products would put him out of business.
More students approached the stand to give testimony that an increase in price would reduce nicotine use among adolescents. One student, Courtney Brown, shared results from a recent survey that showed 73% of Summit County high school students admitted it is easy or very easy for them to get their hands on vaping products. Brown argued that an increased price would make vaping products less accessible to teens.
Lauren Gilbert, a local nurse, also made comments on the health concerns associated with tobacco and nicotine use.
After public comment, the council was split on whether to make an exception.
“It gives me heartburn,” council member Jeffrey Bergeron said in reference to compromising a local small business.
The council ultimately decided it needed to take a hard stance on the issue and passed the first reading of the sales tax resolution unanimously. A second reading will be made at the next Breckenridge Town Council meeting Aug. 27.