Smoking

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Colorado teens vape more than teens in any other state studied by federal researchers and at twice the rate of the national average. That's according to federal research on vaporizers, or e-cigarettes, and it leads health experts to warn that teens either misunderstand or underestimate the risks.

Cara Pallone / KOTO

Colorado is, overall, one of the healthiest states in the country – but things are starting to change as the population grows and ages. One of the unintended side effects is a widening disparity between the healthiest and least healthy counties.

New data indicates disparities across geographic regions; with people living in the mountain communities generally ranking as the healthiest in Colorado. In part due to the things that attract people to the state to begin with.

"The amount of sunshine, the world class skiing, hiking, fly fishing, the ability to go right outside your backyard and experience nature," said Democratic Summit County commissioner Dan Gibbs.

Cara Pallone / KOTO

Colorado residents have vastly different health outcomes, based in part on where they live in the state. Rocky Mountain PBS News analyzed health data from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to rank each of the state's 64 counties based on a variety of health indicators from obesity, to amount of exercise, to smoking and premature deaths.

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As of Jan. 1, 2016, smoking in Fort Collins will be banned throughout much of downtown as well as all large events and festivals that require a special event permit from the city.

While the main goal of the ban is to reduce the public's exposure to secondhand smoke, encouraging smokers to quit could be a secondary result, said Delynn Coldiron, Director of Neighborhood Services for the City of Fort Collins.

"What we're finding is that, as these areas become smoke-free in other parts of the country, that it does actually reduce the amount of people that are smoking overall," Coldiron said. "I don't think it stops smoking completely, but we've seen trends that it does reduce the amount of smoking."

Reynolds American, the country's second-largest cigarette-maker, is changing its policy on smoking in the office. Until now, Reynolds employees have been able to light up at their desks, but come January, workers will have to either go outside or use specially equipped smoking rooms.

"We allowed smoking of cigarettes, cigars, pipes, traditional tobacco products throughout our facilities," says David Howard, a spokesman for Reynolds American. He says it's not as though his co-workers chain-smoke at work.

Walking onto the gaming floor at the Twin Arrows Casino near Flagstaff, Ariz., is a sensory-rich experience, with winning bells and slot machine jingles a constant. But in addition to hearing the sounds of the gaming floor, visitors also smell cigarette smoke.

The Smoke-Free Arizona Act doesn't apply to this casino, located just inside the southern borders of the Navajo Nation. That means smoking in an enclosed public space is legal.

Tobacco control advocates disagree on whether e-cigarettes are a useful tool to get smokers off tobacco, or just a sleeker form of one of the world's deadliest addictions.

A lot of that discord comes from the fact that there's just not enough science to know the risks and benefits of e-cigarettes, which deliver nicotine in a vapor rather than through tobacco smoke. And it could take years to find out if vaping causes cancer and other deadly diseases.

It's a sunny afternoon at Kelly's Collective, a medical marijuana dispensary in Los Angeles, and Nikki Esquibel is getting stoned. But you wouldn't know it.

The 19-year-old, who has a medical prescription for marijuana, is "smoking" pot with a handheld vaporizer, or a vape pen. It's sleek, black, and virtually indistinguishable from a high-end e-cigarette.

That's the point, says Esquibel. "I use it mostly around my neighborhood. It's easy to hide." The vapor coming from the device doesn't even have much of an odor.

Paul L. Dineen / Flickr - Creative Commons

A bill to increase the smoking age in Colorado to 21 failed in the house finance committee Wednesday. One Democrat joined with Republicans to defeat the measure.

While electronic cigarettes may be marketed as alternatives that will keep teenagers away from tobacco, a study suggests that may not be the case.

Trying e-cigarettes increased the odds that a teenager would also try tobacco cigarettes and become regular smokers, the study found. Those who said they had ever used an e-cigarette were six times more likely to try tobacco than ones who had never tried the e-cig.

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