Bill to raise age restriction to 21 for tobacco products passes committee

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.

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Email: mkessler@stgnews.com

Twitter: @MoriKessler

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2014, all rights reserved.

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9 Comments

  • Susan February 21, 2014 at 8:37 pm

    If you are old enough to die for your country, your old enough to buy cigarettes. If at 19, you are too young and stupid to make a decision about whether or not to use tobacco, drafting them into the military to carry guns and shoot people becomes criminal. Are they children or are they adults? Government can’t have it both ways.

  • Sarah J-M February 21, 2014 at 9:24 pm

    I agree… maybe they should change the driving age to 21 as well. You know because giving a 16 year old a motorized vehicle so they can not only hurt themselves but other innocent bystanders doesn’t seem to be issue compared to the SELF victimizing crime smokers commit… this state is ran by idiots.

  • Simone February 22, 2014 at 1:06 am

    This is not the government, this is the Mormons.

    • Biden 2016 February 22, 2014 at 11:38 am

      There are plenty of Mormons that don’t agree with this.

  • Ron February 22, 2014 at 7:55 am

    Must not be many serious problems in Utah since our legislature seems to have time on their hands for stuff like this. Let’s see: (1) a useless, time and money wasting fight to “take back” federal land; (2) a useless, time and money wasting fight to stop gay marriage; (3) a bill to prevent teens from smoking that won’t prevent a single teen from smoking. What else is on the agenda?

  • Richard February 22, 2014 at 6:53 pm

    According to the ACA kids are 26. Maybe we shouldn’t allow smoking and drinking until then. If you’re not old enough to get your own insurance are you old enough to smoke?

  • zacii February 23, 2014 at 6:55 am

    What a waste of resources. This will do nothing to curb underage smoking. Instead it will just create more statutory criminals.

    Stupid laws like this will just boost Mesquite’s economy.

  • Eric May 8, 2014 at 9:06 am

    This is ridiculous. I am currently overseas in Germany where the law is still 18 but it doesn’t matter now that many people are turning to e cigarettes. Although, many restrictions have been placed on us, even for e cigarettes, due to the new EU regulations (source: http://www.e-zigarettetest.de/). Still, this new law is ridiculous.

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