A group determined to prevent minors from using cigarettes is asking the city to issue licenses to sell cheap cigarette online products other than cigarettes.

Tobacco-Free Aurora has in recent weeks urged City Council members to adopt a licensing policy.

State statutes place financial penalties on communities that license cigarette sales, allowing the state to withhold funds collected from cigarettes online taxes. But other tobacco products are free to be licensed without penalty.

By licensing the noncigarette products, including chewing tobacco and cigars, cities may better track who is selling those items and can enforce laws, similar to the way communities regulate alcohol sales to minors.

For example, cities could have the power to suspend or revoke a license if a retailer sells tobacco to minors.

Steamboat Springs, Fountain and Manitou Springs have adopted licensing policies in recent months for many tobacco products. Aurora would be the first in the Denver area should it decide to adopt such a policy.

About 90 percent of adult tobacco users consumed tobacco before age 18, according to Tad Spencer, director of the Colorado Tobacco Prevention Initiatives for The BACCHUS Network. Spencer is spearheading the Tobacco-Free Aurora effort.

Aurora is the first area city that the group is reaching out to because the city has numerous youth-focused initiatives and is home to the Anschutz Medical Campus, Spencer said.

"Our push of this is definitely the illegal sales to minors," Spencer said. "Certainly, that's not the whole problem. We are trying to close the gaps, and we do have a long-term view."

That long-term view involves changing state law to allow cities to license the sale of cigarettes.

A proposal in the legislature two years ago would have done just that, but it never made it out of committee, said Bob Doyle, executive director of the Colorado Tobacco Education and Prevention Alliance.

"Why are we protecting cigarettes?" Doyle said. "It's the deadliest consumer product."

Aurora City Councilman Bob FitzGerald, who wanted to make it illegal in Aurora a few years ago for an adult to smoke cigarettes in a vehicle containing a child, commended the group for its efforts but said such a licensing policy would do little to prevent minors from obtaining tobacco.

Such a license would place an added requirement on retailers that may do little to curb tobacco use, he said.

"I admire their tenacity and their thoughtfulness," FitzGerald said of Tobacco-Free Aurora, "but I don't think it is a necessary thing to do in burdening businesses right now."

Tobacco retailers such as J2 Tobacco & Gift on South Havana Street agree that another regulation would be a burden.

"I don't like it," J2 owner Jim Albermani said. "We would have to pay more fees."

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