(The Center Square) - A Colorado House committee advanced a bill late Monday that would largely ban flavored tobacco and nicotine products.
The House Finance Committee heard over seven hours of testimony from dozens of opponents and supporters of House Bill 22-1064 before advancing it to the Appropriations Committee in a 7-4 vote.
HB 22-1064 would ban the sale of all flavored tobacco and nicotine products such as flavored e-cigarettes and menthol cigarettes with some exemptions that have been carved out since the bill was first introduced in January.
Democrats argue the bill is meant to get the products out of the hands of kids, while opponents of the bill argue it will foster a black market for the products and will hurt those trying to quit smoking with the help of flavored nicotine.
One of the amendments that was passed by the Health & Insurance Committee last month exempted "age-restricted" retailers from the legislation.
That amendment, however, didn't have the support of bill sponsors and the coalition backing the legislation, Democratic Rep. Kyle Mullica, one of the bill sponsors, told the House Finance Committee on Monday.
The House Finance Committee later approved an amendment "to revert the bill back to the original status which was to remove the age-restricted stores," said bill sponsor Rep. Jennifer Bacon, D-Denver.
Thomas Briant, executive director of the National Association of Tobacco Outlets, said during testimony that the bill would funnel consumers to other states, internet retailers, or the black market, and "could lead to employee layoffs and even store closures" within Colorado.
Other amendments made to the bill on Monday included exemptions for cigar bars, hookah lounges, and tobacco bars located in licensed gaming places like casinos.
"At the end of the day we are targeting the flavors, we're not targeting the use of tobacco in its entirety, which makes it different from the alcohol conversation," Bacon said.
Colorado lawmakers raised the tobacco and nicotine purchase age to 21 in 2020. That year, voters also passed Proposition EE, which established taxes on nicotine products and increased taxes on tobacco products, and funneled the revenue to preschool programs, the rural school cash fund, and the state educational fund.
The initial fiscal note for HB 22-1064 estimated that state revenue would see a hit of $37.1 million in fiscal year 2022 and $38.6 million in fiscal 2023 because of decreased cigarette and tobacco tax revenue from reduced consumption.
A revised fiscal note following the age-restricted retailer amendment said the bill would reduce state revenue by an "indeterminate amount" because it assumed consumers would "purchase flavored products at eligible retailers, or switch to unflavored products that are more widely available."
Ulrik Boesen, excise tax policy director for the Tax Foundation, said in a recent blog post (published prior to the revised fiscal note) that the state "could lose approximately $84 million when compared to the projected revenue for the first full year following prohibition (calendar year 2024)."
"The decline is pretty evenly split between decreases in cigarette tax revenue and revenue from other tobacco and nicotine products," he said. "This revenue is earmarked for health-care spending, transfers to local governments, preschool programs, and other education spending."