Colorado youth are now using nicotine vaping products at twice the national average — the highest rate in the country. 30% of teens say they vape, and e-cigarettes are now the second-most tried substance among youth. The health of our young people is at stake and, this November, we’ve been given an opportunity to take action by voting yes on Proposition EE.
Currently, Colorado does not tax nicotine vaping products and our cigarette tax is among the lowest in the country. By increasing the cost to purchase, people — especially youth — will be less likely to use these harmful substances. Proposition EE would close the tax loophole on nicotine vaping products to bring the rate in line with other tobacco products and slowly increase cigarette taxes from 84 cents in 2020 to $2.64 in 2027.
Preliminary research on vaping products suggests that they pose a risk to heart, lung, and oral health. A Center for Disease Control and Prevention report also found that vaping with nicotine can permanently affect brain development in people under age 25 and that young people who use e-cigarettes may be more likely to smoke cigarettes in the future.
From our perspectives, we immediately think of the negative impacts these health effects have on military readiness, healthcare costs for families, and many other downstream challenges that arise from the use of these substances. In fact, 70% of Colorado’s youth are ineligible for military service and the leading cause is health and fitness.
In 2019, concerns about the health effects of nicotine products led the Surgeons General of the Air Force, Army, Navy, and United States to announce that “the use of tobacco products among service members is pervasive, harmful, and an urgent public health problem,” and is such “irrespective of whether it is smoked, smokeless, or electronic,” and urged all service members to remain tobacco free to “build a stronger, healthier and more resilient force.”
When it comes to addressing the issue, research shows that a tax on these products will, in fact, result in reduction of use. It is estimated that for every 10 percent increase in the price of cigarettes, there is a decrease in youth usage of approximately 7 percent.
But decreasing teen vaping rates is not the only critical issue Proposition EE will address.
Revenue from the measure would also help avoid crippling budget cuts to K-12 schools, provide access to universal preschool for all Colorado 4-year-olds, and support affordable housing and eviction assistance — all essential pieces in recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Universal preschool is critical to supporting a strong economy and ensuring a bright future for Colorado’s children and families. Early childhood education has proven to support long-term educational and professional outcomes for kids, including higher wages and higher graduation rates. The positive impacts are particularly strong for children living in families with low incomes and children of color, who disproportionately face barriers to educational opportunity in comparison with their peers.
Access to free preschool also gives parents more opportunity to participate in the workforce and reduces the financial burden associated with childcare. Many working families struggle to find access to affordable options and, even for those who can afford it, high quality childcare is not always available. In 2018, Colorado’s licensed child care centers, family child care homes and preschools only had capacity to serve 58 percent of young children likely in need of care.
When we envision what a bright future would look like for Colorado, we see healthy kids and families that have access to the educational foundation they need to succeed professionally, and in life. We urge you to vote yes on Proposition EE to lay the groundwork for not only Colorado’s recovery from the COVID-19 crisis, but a future in which everyone in our community can thrive.
Major General Gary Dylewski (Ret.) USAF, is President and CEO of Patriot Solutions Intl, a Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business, and a member of Council for a Strong America/Mission: Readiness.
Burnie Zercher is the Chairman of Industrial Constructors / Managers, Inc., is a member of Council for a Strong America /ReadyNation and an Executive and board member of Executives Partnering to Invest in Children (EPIC).