Mayor Vetoes Denver Flavor Ban to Detriment of LGBTQ Youth   

Denver, CO – One Colorado, the state’s leading advocacy organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) Coloradans and their families is deeply disappointed with Mayor Michael Hancock’s decision to veto the Denver Flavor Ban ordinance and urges Denver City Council to override Mayor Hancock’s veto and prioritize the health and safety of LGBTQ youth.

Over the past two years, One Colorado joined a coalition of over 100+ organizations based in the City and County of Denver to pass this ordinance. The coalition gathered feedback from Council members, health advocates, medical professionals, advocacy organizations, store owners, and even the tobacco industry to find common ground and write an accurate, thorough  ordinance to the benefit of our youth and city. 

Denver City Council passed the Denver Flavor Ban 8 to 3 on Monday, December 6, 2021. Rather than upholding the ordinance, Mayor Hancock chose to veto, forgoing his opportunity to be a national leader by passing a flavor ban without the problematic menthol exemption that so many others have. 

This ordinance protects the health and safety of our most vulnerable populations who are often left out of public debate and policy making. Tobacco use is one of the most serious, yet preventable health crises facing LGBTQ youth. Banning the sale of all flavored tobacco products, including menthol, is a common-sense reform that would decrease the health disparities that impact the LGBTQ community, including LGBTQ youth and young adults. Consider these equally concerning statistics: 

  • More than 4 out of five young adults ages 18 to 24 who have ever used tobacco reported that their first product was flavored. –Truth Initiative, Flavored Tobacco
  • In Colorado, transgender youth have reported using menthol at almost double the rate of cisgender youth. –Health Kids CO Survey
  • In Colorado, gay and lesbian youth use menthol at nearly double the rate of their heterosexual peers. –Health Kids CO Survey
  • Tobacco companies have a long history of disproportionately targeting LGBTQ communities through event sponsorship, promotions, giveaways and advertising. –American Lung Association
  • Nationally, more than one million youth use menthol e-cigarettes. –Tobacco Free Kids

LGBTQ youth continue to use flavored tobacco and menthol products at more than double the rate of their heterosexual and cisgender peers. Information about the health disparities correlated with smoking are not novel. The immense, targeted tobacco advertising aimed at our community has become a source of frustration for all of us who work to improve the future for LGBTQ Coloradans. From print advertising to billboards to product marketing inside bars and clubs, tobacco companies know they have had fertile ground to hook LGBTQ people at a rate higher than the non-LGBTQ population.

“We must protect LGBTQ youth from the exploitative practices of the tobacco industry. Tobacco companies market and utilize flavors to hook youth. The Flavor Ban addresses an ongoing public health crisis by removing flavored tobacco products and prioritizing the health of the next generation over the profits of the industry. LGBTQ youth have faced many obstacles, including experiencing the stressors of a global pandemic and a loss of connection with their peers. Finding healthy ways to cope can be challenging without also having to deal with an addiction to nicotine through flavored tobacco products. We owe it to Denver’s youth to create opportunities for them to thrive and lead healthy lives, and I encourage Denver City Council to fully support The Flavor Ban.” Nadine Bridges, Executive Director, One Colorado

“Throughout this entire process, the power and influence the tobacco industry has exerted has been overwhelming. As civil servants, members of the Denver City Council and the Mayor have an obligation to disrupt this pattern of exploitation that has continuously harmed LGBTQ Coloradans. More than 40 letters from LGBTQ youth were sent to City Council members, in addition to multiple meetings, phone calls, and emails calling on the City Council to support this ordinance. We urge the Denver City Council to override the Mayor’s veto and once again pass this public health ordinance.”Branden Shafer, Political and Organizing Manager, One Colorado

Putting a stop to the sale of flavored tobacco products within the city of Denver is necessary to improve the health of people who visit, live in, or work in our city, including the ever growing number of those within the LGBTQ community who call Denver home. It is clear that the benefits of this positive reform would be seen for decades to come. We expect city leaders to continue to put public health ahead of deep-pocketed special interests.