Case Study

Mandating tobacco retailer licensing through community engagement.

The Challenge

Youth access to tobacco dramatically increases the likelihood that they will become lifelong tobacco users.

When tobacco retailers are not regulated, it becomes easier for minors to purchase tobacco regardless of the legal purchasing age. Prior to Rescue’s work in Denver, tobacco laws had not been updated since 1998, so many excluded new, emerging tobacco products, and it was not required to have a license to sell tobacco products.

Behavior Change Approach
Licensed to Sell Tobacco (L2ST) mobilized Denver youth to become advocates for policy change to enforce tobacco retailer licensing. This youth-driven effort increased awareness and education of the issue, and then galvanized community-wide support to pressure legislators into taking action to protect Denver youth.
Implementation Strategy

    Rescue empowered Denver youth to become change makers in their community recruiting over 350 student leaders from across Denver to join the campaign. Rescue then trained these youth leaders in advocacy, public relations, and generating support from community members. In two years, these youth volunteered over 4,500 hours towards the campaign.
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    L2ST youth collected over 5,000 public opinion surveys to gauge awareness and support for the issue. Surveys showed that 59% of youth said it was easy for minors to purchase tobacco from retail stores. Meanwhile, 80% of adults, including 69% of adult tobacco users, supported the idea of enforcing tobacco retailer licensing.
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    The campaign engaged community members via events, presentations, or meetings where youth raised awareness and support for L2ST. They collected over 4,500 handwritten messages of support from Denver citizens demonstrating their support for the initiative, as well as signatures from local organizations. Youth met with Denver City Council members to bring community support to their attention. Earned media efforts further increased awareness and urgency to the issue of licensing.
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    Campaign youth presented their work to the Denver City Council, and successfully pushed the city to update the local tobacco laws for the first time in 17 years to expand the definition of tobacco products to include e-cigarettes and hookah.
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Results & Impact

License to Sell Tobacco mobilized 350 high school students and generated an update of Denver tobacco laws for the first time in 17 years. The new law expands the definition of tobacco products to include e-cigarettes and hookah, contributing to increased barriers for youth access to tobacco. Youth leaders won the Denver Health Community Pillar Award (2014) and the National Group Youth Activists of the Year Award (2015).