Boulder Valley School District parents concerned about the rapid rise in vaping among middle and high school students are lobbying Boulder city officials to regulate the sale of e-cigarettes to discourage underage buyers.

Boulder City Council plans to consider the request at Tuesday’s meeting. For the proposal to move forward, five council members need to agree to direct staff to develop an ordinance for consideration.

Possible options include a ban on the sale of flavored vaping products and raising the purchase age for nicotine products from 18 to 21. Licensing the sale of nicotine products or adding zoning restrictions that limit the concentration of sales locations, particularly around schools, are other possibilities.

“This is such a serious problem,” said Joelle Rossback Dahl, a founding member of the ACT!, or Advocate for Clean Teens, or ACT!, group and a Boulder High parent. “We’re grateful the city is listening.”

E-cigarettes are marketed as safer alternative to smoking cigarettes for adults, but the fruity flavors appeal to teens. Flavors, for example, include watermelon, cappuccino and mango. Most teens, Rossback Dah said, also don’t realize they contain nicotine. A single pod, for example, can contain as much nicotine as 20 cigarettes, she said.

“Many of the kids think its just water vapor,” she said. “It tastes yummy. There’s a good buzz. Many of the kids don’t think they’re doing anything wrong. But it’s extremely addictive.”

Boulder County teens also are vaping at a higher rate than the state average — and Colorado teens are vaping more than those nationwide, based on the most recent results of the Healthy Kids Behavior Survey.

Survey results show the national average for current use of e-cigarettes among high schoolers is 13.2%. The Colorado average is 26.2%, while the Boulder Valley average is 33% — and the Boulder Valley average for smoking cigarettes is 8%.

About 46% of Boulder Valley high school students reported trying e-cigarettes. Almost 90% of high school students reported seeing smoking cigarettes as risky, compared to about 50% for vaping.

In response to concerns about teen vaping, several Colorado communities have moved to further regulate tobacco sales through new laws that increase taxes or raise the legal age to buy such products.

And in June, Aspen became the first city in the state to ban the sale of all flavored nicotine products, including those containing menthol. The prohibition on selling flavored cigarettes, cigars, e-cigarettes and vaping products in Aspen goes into effect Jan. 1.

The Boulder Valley parent group started in December, spurred by reports from their teens on how rampant the problem is in local schools and stories of students vaping in bathrooms, halls and even during class.

Along with lobbying the city, the group is working with Boulder Valley School District and Boulder County Public Health to increase awareness.

Through a grant, the school district and the health department are providing parent presentations on vaping with the help of seven full-time nurses working in the high schools. Those nurses also are giving presentations to students in health classes.

But with students as young as those in late elementary school getting caught vaping, Rossback Dahl said, there’s more work to be done.

“Parents and the community are not educated enough despite the numerous efforts by the schools and local health organizations,” she said. “It really is an effort that’s going to take everybody to join together.”

The Denver Post contributed to this report.

If you go

What: Boulder City Council meeting
When: 6 p.m. Tuesday
Where: Boulder Municipal Building, 1777 Broadway
More info: View the agenda at

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