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Town to consider prohibiting nicotine possession by minors

Focusing on the positive instead of the punitive

By Mark Reaman

The Crested Butte Town Council will hold a public hearing on March 18 to consider an ordinance that would prohibit the possession of tobacco and nicotine products by persons under 18 years old. It is currently illegal for minors to purchase such products, but they can possess them.

Crested Butte chief marshal Mike Reily came before the council and said the issue came to the town through the Gunnison County Substance Abuse Prevention Project (GCSAPP) and the Crested Butte Community School.

“It is not meant to be punitive but rather to be a resource for kids that pushes them to get help,” Reily told the council at the March 4 meeting.

In a memo to the council, Reily said Colorado leads the United States in youth vaping rates. He said in the local area, youth have high accessibility to vaping products but don’t perceive the dangers of the activity.

“Vaping among youth is a concern and being proactive in creating policy to help reduce youth use is of paramount importance,” Reily wrote in the memo. “By creating this ordinance, our community will have an additional tool in order to help prevent youth from using tobacco/nicotine products and support them in making healthy choices.”

People receiving a summons under such an ordinance would go through the municipal court system so they wouldn’t be tagged with county or district court stigma.

Councilmembers Laura Mitchell and Paul Merck wanted to ensure that a minor caught possessing such products would not end up with a major criminal record.

Reily said Gunnison passed a similar ordinance in 2011 and updated it in 2017. He said like Gunnison police, the Crested Butte marshals would not aggressively enforce such a law but would use it more for education purposes. “We would take a very measured approach,” he assured council.

The council agreed to consider the ordinance and set it for public hearing at the next meeting. Councilperson Jackson Petito asked high school principal Stephanie Niemi to invite students to show up to participate in the debate and consideration on March 18.

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