The Facts

An Important Legislative Milestone - Colorado Tobacco Tax Act, Amendment 35

This proposal appeared on the November 2, 2004 ballot as a constitutional amendment, where it was resoundingly approved by more than 61% of Colorado voters and went into effect January 1, 2005.1 Amendment 35 increased tobacco taxes in an effort to increase funding for low-income medical care and public health programs dealing with the prevention and treatment of tobacco-related diseases.

The law is very specific about how the revenues raised by this tax will be used 2
  • 65% of revenues support increased access to healthcare for low-income families
  • 16% of the revenues support efforts throughout Colorado to reduce tobacco use.
  • 16% of the revenues are to be used for the prevention, early detection and treatment of cancer and cardiovascular and pulmonary diseases.
  • 3% of the revenues are used for various other purposes.
Amendment 35 has also helped reduce the sale of tobacco to minors. Every 10% increase in the price of cigarettes has been shown to reduce the number of kids who smoke by 6-7%. Price increases remain the single most effective way to decrease smoking rates in kids. 13

Tobacco Sales in Colorado

Colorado currently ranks 34th for state excise taxes per pack of 20 cigarettes3. Colorado's tax is currently 84 cents per pack compared to a national average of $1.46 per pack. The highest tax rate can be found in the state of New York at $4.35 and the lowest tax rate occurs in the state of Missouri at $0.17 per pack.

Laws impacting the sale of tobacco and other nicotine products to minors range from those at the federal level implemented through the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to state laws and municipal ordinances (here in Colorado) that have been put in place by communities that want to protect youth.

The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act (Tobacco Control Act)4 became law on June 22, 2009. It gives the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the authority to regulate the manufacture, distribution and marketing of tobacco products to protect public health. It does this by:
  • Restricting the sales of cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products to minors. Examples include: requiring proof of age to purchase, banning the sale of packages with less than 20 cigarettes and requiring face-to-face sales to limit vending machine sales (except in adult-only facilities).
  • Restricting tobacco product advertising and marketing to youth. Examples include: limiting the design, production and placement of cigarette packaging and advertisements, banning tobacco sponsorships at sporting or entertainment events and banning free tobacco samples.
  • Requiring bigger, more prominent warning labels for tobacco products.
  • Giving the FDA authority over many areas of the tobacco industry. Examples include: the inspection of tobacco companies, standards for tobacco products, banning flavored cigarettes and enforcing advertising and promotion restrictions.
  • Other regulation includes: requiring the tobacco industry to disclose information on all health-related research and on all information on tobacco products' ingredients.
A variety of Colorado state laws play vital roles to also limit and better define tobacco sales while helping protect those younger than age 18. These laws:
  • Make it a criminal offense to sell tobacco products to minors punishable by fines; minors who purchase these products are also subject to fines, tobacco education and/or community service 5,6
  • Require a photo I.D. to establish the age of the purchaser 5
  • Expand the definition of tobacco products to include e-cigarettes and other new and emerging tobacco products.
Colorado's Tobacco-Free Schools Law7 prohibits the use of tobacco products on all school property to create safe and healthy school environments. This includes all public nursery schools, day care centers, child care facilities, head start programs, kindergarten, or elementary or secondary schools through grade 12. The board of education of each school district adopts and enforces policies and rules to comply with the law.

Some of Colorado's local municipalities have gone a step further to protect their young citizens. Communities as diverse as Fountain, Golden, Manitou Springs, Pueblo and Steamboat Springs have passed local laws requiring a license for retailers selling non-cigarette tobacco products. In this way, these communities seek to strengthen enforcement of laws prohibiting the sale of tobacco products to minors.

Laws to Help Limit Harmful Exposure to Secondhand Smoke

Legislation to limit smoking in many work and public places began with Colorado's Clean Indoor Air Act in 2006. If you witness smoking in any of the following areas you can find out how to report a violation by clicking here.

Colorado Clean Indoor Air Act – Implemented July 1, 20068

Purpose: To preserve and improve the health, comfort and environment of Colorado residents by limiting exposure to tobacco smoke.

Requires Indoor Areas to be Smoke-Free
Including but not limited to:
  • Public places and buildings such as elevators, restrooms, theaters, museums, libraries, schools, educational institutions, retirement facilities and nursing homes
  • Lobbies, reception areas, hallways and any other common-use areas
  • Any place of employment not exempted
  • Restaurants, bars, limited gaming facilities, billiard or pool halls, bowling alleys, grocery stores, and any food service establishment
  • Indoor sports arenas, gymnasiums and auditoriums
  • Health care facilities, hospitals, health care clinics, doctors' offices and child day care facilities
  • No less than 75% of hotel or motel sleeping quarters rented to guests
  • Jury waiting and deliberation rooms, courtrooms and public meetings
  • Government-owned mass transportation of any kind
  • Entryways of establishments covered by this law must be smoke-free
  • "Entryways" means the outside of the front or main doorway leading into a building. Entryway also includes the area of a public or private property within a specified radius outside of the doorway. The specified radius shall be 15 feet.
  • A local authority may specify a radius of less than 15 feet for the area included within an entryway
  • Private homes, residences and automobiles unless being used for childcare or daycare
  • Limousines under private hire
  • Up to 25% of rented hotel or motel rooms
  • Retail tobacco businesses
  • An establishment that met the definition of a "cigar-tobacco bar," as of December 31, 2005
  • The outdoor area of any business, excluding entryways as described above
  • Fully enclosed and independently ventilated airport smoking concessions at Denver International Airport
  • Employers with three or fewer employees who do not allow access to the public
  • A private, non-residential building on a farm or ranch that has an annual gross income of less than $500,000
  • A violation of this law is a Class 2 Petty Offense.
  • It is unlawful for a person who owns, manages, operates, or otherwise controls the use of a premises subject to this law to violate any provisions of this law.
  • It is unlawful for a person to smoke in an area where smoking is prohibited by this law.
  • 1st violation within a calendar year - $200 fine
  • 2nd violation within a calendar year - $300 fine
  • Every violation per day thereafter within a calendar year - $500 fine
  • Each day of a continuing violation shall be deemed a separate violation.
  • This law is enforced by local authorities.
Here are a few changes to the law that have gone into effect since 2006.
  • Colorado Clean Indoor Air Act implemented July 1, 2006
  • Exemptions for assisted living facilities went into effect August of 2007. Exceptions include areas designated for smoking for residents; areas that are fully enclosed and ventilated; and areas to which access is restricted to the residents or their guests.9
  • Repeal of the casino exemption from the Colorado Clean Air Act went into effect January 1, 2008. Casinos are now required to be smoke-free.10
  • Colorado Clean Indoor Air Act amended in 2010 to include medical marijuana 11
  • Colorado Clean Indoor Air Act amended in 2013 to remove the term "medical." Marijuana smoking is prohibited in all places and locations in which tobacco smoking is prohibited.11

See where your Colorado community stands on clean air. Several have passed laws stronger than the state laws to protect their citizens. Click here for a list of communities with rankings from

  3. Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, Tobacco Taxes: A WIN-WIN-WIN for Cash-Strapped States, Feb. 2010