For months now, Senator Stuart Reid (Republican – Ogden) has been telling the media and public that he intends to raise the current age limit on smoking from 19 to 21. After a favorable nod from the Health and Human Services Interim Committee in November, Reid now has legislation prepared to do so.
SB 12 – Age Limit for Tobacco and Related Products, quite simply, raises the age that people can purchase and consume tobacco, e-cigarettes, or tobacco related paraphernalia to 21 and puts into place punishments for both underage individuals and those who sell to underage individuals. Currently, a child under the age of 18, for example, could go through the juvenile court system if they are caught attempting to buy or consuming tobacco. Under Reid’s bill, young adults between the ages of 18 and 21 would be guilty of a class C misdemeanor.
Reid also does not affect penalties for merchants who sell to underage individuals, instead making the technical change from selling to people under 19 to selling to people under 21. A first time offense will still net a class C misdemeanor, class B for the second, and class A for the third.
“Increasing the legal age of sale is likely to have a significant impact in reducing tobacco use among the young and limit their access to this highly addictive, deadly product. Young brains are still developing through the teen years and offsetting the daily use of tobacco products will reduce the addiction and dependency on nicotine. Any effort to prevent tobacco use among young people is worthwhile. It will save lives,” said Beverly May, regional advocacy director for the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids in her testimony to the Interim Committee last month.
Senator Todd Weiler (Republican – Woods Cross) did raise some objections at the time and no doubt will bring them up again during the session. In short, Weiler wondered why 21 is any better or worse than the current age of 19 and asked why 21 is an ideal age compared to, say, 25.
The legal age to purchase tobacco has been 19 for three years when, in 2010, the legal age was raised from 18. At the time there was a concern that 18 year old students were legally purchasing tobacco and bringing the products to high schools. If passed, Utah would become the first state to raise the smoking age to 21 statewide.
To contact Senator Reid, click here or call 801-627-8178.
Impact on Average Utahn:
High Impact 5 . 4 . 3 . 2 . 1 . 0 No Impact
Need for Legislation:
Necessary 5 . 4 . 3 . 2 . 1 . 0 Unnecessary
Sound Legislation 5 . 4 . 3 . 2 . 1 . 0 Clunker