SALT LAKE CITY – A senate bill aimed at raising the legal smoking age in Utah passed committee, Thursday, in a 4-1 vote.
Senate Bill 12 would raise the legal age for purchasing, possessing or distributing tobacco and related products from 19 to 21. The restriction would also extend to e-cigarettes.
New York City passed a similar measure last year. If passed, the statewide age-change would not take affect until 2016.
The law would also make it illegal for a business proprietor to allow an underage person to frequent his business while using tobacco.
The Utah Senate Health and Human Services Committee voted to move the bill forward with a favorable recommendation to the state senate.
According to senate fiscal notes attached to the bill, the legislation would impact some 4,700 people, forgoing the purchase of tobacco and related products, resulting in a savings to each of $600 per year. This adds up to $2.8 million in local and state tax savings to taxpayers. In turn, tax revenue from the sale of tobacco and related products would decrease by $2.7 million to the state’s general fund and $175,000 to local government funds. Fiscal impacts would be effective beginning in the state’s 2015 fiscal year.
According to a statement from the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, SB 12 is supported by various anti-tobacco and health organizations, such as the Utah Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Utah Medical Association, Utah Tobacco Prevention Task Force, Utah Society for Respiratory Care, among others.
Recently a statewide survey conducted by Don Jones & Associates, a Salt Lake City-based research and marketing firm, asked voters about the proposed age change related to tobacco products. According to the survey, 63 percent supported raising the age, 35 percent were against it.
“The poll found Utah voters are concerned about tobacco use among young people and the proposal to raise the age for sale of tobacco garnered both broad and widespread support,” said Aaron Andersen of Dan Jones & Associates.
Sen. Stuart Reid, R-Ogden, a sponsor of the bill, previously stated that raising the legal age will help keep young people from becoming addicted to tobacco early on. He also said tobacco is “something that we know creates death and health problems.”
As reported by KSL.com, Dave Davis, president of the Utah Food Industry Association, spoke against the bill in committee Thursday. He said the government is trying to regulate human behavior. As well, 19-year-old individuals are legal adults who can vote and join the military, he said.
“They’re not children. They’re legal adults,” Davis said.
The Utah Senate Health and Human Services Committee is chaired by Sen. Evan Vickers, who voted against SB 12 in committee; other members include Allen M. Christensen, Luz Robles, Brian E. Shiozawa and Daniel W. Thatcher, who voted for SB 12 in committee.
- SB 12 Age Limit for Tobacco, as amended 20140220 – full text of bill as amended Feb. 20 in committee
- Survey of Utah Voters concerning raising the legal age for tobacco
- State lawmakers look to raise legal smoking age; Great American Smoke Out
- Vaping; nicotine gadget craze reaches Southern Utah
- Utah 14th in protecting kids from tobacco according to report
- DSU’s tobacco ban leaves no room for alternatives
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