Bill to raise smoking age in Utah advances

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SALT LAKE CITY -- A bill that would raise the age to purchase tobacco and related products advanced out of an interim committee, but not without some opposition from lawmakers.

The bill would raise the smoking age in Utah from 19 to 21, and also prevent tobacco products and e-cigarettes from being sold to anyone under 21.

"It'll keep the young people from being addicted," said the bill's sponsor, Sen. Stuart Reid, R-Ogden. "Something that we know creates death and health problems."

The bill debuted before a packed meeting for the Health and Human Services Committee on Wednesday, the last interim session before the Utah State Legislature convenes in January. Supporters testified that it could save Utah millions of dollars in long-term healthcare costs because of tobacco-related illnesses, and reduce the chances of children becoming addicted.

"Ninety percent of legal adults that purchase tobacco for underage smokers are under 21," said Dr. David Patton, the executive director of the Utah Department of Health. "So we think that would be a good prevention for transfer of those harmful drugs."

But lawmakers were skeptical.

"The 19-year-old age isn't a deterrent," said Rep. Brian Greene, R-Pleasant Grove. "What makes you think that 21-year-old age will be a deterring factor?"

Rep. Michael Kennedy, R-Alpine, asked if lawmakers would be coming back in a few years to raise the age again to 25, or banning cigarettes outright? It was an idea supported by Sen. Allen Christensen, R-North Ogden.

"Why don't we make tobacco illegal across the board?" Christensen said. "Because we can't get it passed. We ought to. But we can't get it passed. So raising it to 21 is a reasonable, responsible limit and I find myself arguing for children once again."

Only one person testified in opposition to the bill on Wednesday. Dave Davis of the Utah Food Retailers Association worried about "the creeping hand of government."

"When can we be adults in the state of Utah?" he asked the committee.

The bill passed out of committee with some lawmakers voting against it. If it passes the full Utah State Legislature next year, Utah would be the first state in the nation to raise the smoking age to 21. New York City recently raised the age, and supporters testified that Hawaii was considering it as well.

"We have a culture in terms of health and we have a culture that says tobacco is not something that we should be accessing," Reid told reporters outside the committee meeting. "We set the example for the rest of the nation."


  • Lisa

    Okay.. I believe that they should raise the age of joining the military to the age of 21. If You are old enough to give you life for your country.. You should be old enough to drink and smoke!! Come on Utah, lets get real. This will not stop young people from smoking, but lets save some young lives and raise the military age to 21!! ~~Lisa~~ Orem Utah

    • Eric Anderson

      That’s fine, but remember that the Constitution was amended to lower the VOTING age to 18 precisely because 18 year olds were being drafted. If you raise the military service age to 21 then you have to raise the voting age too. Right?

      You’re either an adult, and a full citizen, or you’re not. You can’t pick and choose different ages for different activities. You’re a LEGAL adult at 18, so that should be the age.

      If we don’t want people smoking and drinking we need to lead by example. Nothing else works.

  • Eric Anderson

    The age should be 18. If you’re an adult at 18, then you should be able to do whatever you wish at 18.

    The reality is that very few kids start drinking or smoking until AFTER they turn 18. They’ve been doing it for years by that point. You can raise the legal age to 100 if you want to and it won’t make a bit of difference.

    Drugs are illegal at ANY age. How’s that “war on drugs” going, again?

  • Scarlet Angel

    I don’t know what world these Lawmakers live in. My sister’s 60 ish neighbor used to sell cases, yes I said cases of cigarettes to teens to supplement his income. If we can ban trans fats, why can’t we ban cigarettes altogether? I think because the tobacco companies must donate big money to politicians. This is top on my list of crazy States.

    • Trace

      Because you have FREEDOM in America. You realize that sweets will be the next target. If you don’t defend ALL FREEDOMS you will eventually lose them all!

  • Joe

    I’m so tired of the ” church” running our state, if you can enlist and fight for our country at age 18 u should be able to decide if u want to smoke, 19 is bad enough… but 21 come on Ut stop pushing the church down our throat

  • Nic Nolan

    “VICE NANNY VICE NANNY” This is ignorant. raising the age isn’t going to do anything. Kids will still smoke they have since the beginning of time. PROVE IT!!!

  • Joe

    Raise the legal driving age to 25 and save lives.. same frame of thought right!
    Where is the data that raising the age to 21 on cigarettes will save lives… Where is the data that electronic cigarettes are dangerous to oneself when their is NO proven study at this very moment from the Food and Drug Administration that its hazardous to your health.. Far as anyone knows it may help cure a dreaded disease.. Who knows! Yet lets throw that in there too… So now you will have law enforcement fine and cite a person who ONCE was an adult who is now treated as a child for carrying or smoking and put a record on them….. Quit the CONTROL it will not deter a thing other than more money to be made for the state judicial system with FINES and possibly ruining a persons career,

  • Nate G

    When is it that the people are allowed to Vote in these Circumstances. The legislature has always believed to make decisions for us. Im 19 years old and everywhere else in america you were able to purchase tobacco products at the age of 18. Utah was the only state to have to purchase cigarettes at 19. But they continue to keep trying to raise the smoking age limit after they have already raised it Once before.

  • Terry Dutton

    Here we have bias religious beliefs making law. We are actually gonna have the guts to ask a 18 year old to pick up a rifle put on a pair of boots, and then go and lay down his life and watch his friends do the same, and then we are gonna take away his right to make basic adult decisions, like whether or not to smoke or have a beer. This is retarded! So raise the smoking age, and then raise the age of the draft. Better yet stop wasting time on this kind of trivial stupidity and find something like fighting Obama and his blatant push to remove our Freedoms or maybe figureing out his helathcare scam. It is easy to sit in a chair and push hair brained religiously based ideas, that are a matter of personal choice, Basically this is a waste of time and money, your worrying about smoking, In this day and age I am happy my kids don’t develope a crack habit or heroine, and you are wasting this kind of time and money on raising the smoking age. Someone up there needs to get a reality check!!!!!

  • Corey Young

    I really don’t care if people smoke, it is their right to choose to or not. But I also don’t like to have to walk through someone else’s smoke. it is disgusting to me to have to breathe in something that is exhaled from someone else’s lungs. The age to buy cigarettes should stay the same, and if someone smokes they should do so at an appropriate distance from doors and not walk around a public place smoking, I have to walk through people’s smoke as they walk around campus and I find it disgusting.

  • Nicole

    How about changing the age of driving and/or getting married in UT?!! imagine what a little maturity and education could do, just the affects on health and lives alone!

  • John

    This state is becoming very hipocritical. As said many times before, at the age of 18 your an adult and able to make the decision to go fight for your country and possibly die for it. Then on the other hand, as of now they say at 18 (possibly 19 or 20) your not old enough to make the decision to use tabacco. Why? Because it puts our health at risk? Does going to war put your health on the same line, if not worse? So basically their saying at 18,19 or 20; your not developed enough to make your own adult decisions. But if you do something against the law, we are then concidered old enough and expected to know not to make that bad decision. So then they get tried as an adult. You can’t pick and choose when were concidered adults at 18 and when were not. It needs to be consistant. So if the age is raised, so should the age to vote, enlist, and be tried as an adult. Besides, what about all the people that are younger then 21 and are already addicted right now? Can’t expect them to be able to quit at the drop of a hat. Laws are ment to protect others from bad decisions we make. We are our own person and therefore should be able to make any decision we’d like that will effect our own lives.

  • Caitie

    This won’t fix anything. Why penalize people and take away their freedoms while many more awful things are slipping right under the radar? It’s not like kids could never get their hands on booze because they were underage.

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