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Legislature considers upping age minimum to buy tobacco

staff writer

Published: Thursday, February 13, 2014

Updated: Thursday, February 13, 2014 00:02

tobacco

Riley Densley photo

USU student Ted Tompkins smokes a pipe in front of the Merrill-Cazier Library.


The Utah Legislature is looking to change the statewide legal smoking age from 19 to 21 years old this legislative session. If passed, the new law could take effect as early as May 1.

The bill, Senate Bill 12, is sponsored by state Sen. Stuart Reid, R-Ogden. Reid declined to comment about the issue.

The bill is currently stagnant, according to Sen. Evan Vickers, R-Cedar City, who is head of the House Health and Human Services Committee in which the bill will is assigned.

“Right now, it has been drafted and it has been through rules,” Vickers said. “Sen. Reid told me to hold the bill until he was ready to have it heard in committee, so basically I am just waiting on him.”

 

Adam Bramwell, the media liaison of the Tobacco Prevention and Control at the Utah Department of Health, said if Utah were to pass the bill, it would be the first state to do so. There are some areas such as Hawaii County in Hawaii and New York City that have recently passed smoking restrictions. States like Colorado, Vermont and Maryland are also considering similar bills.

Bramwell said the tobacco industry is built on the back of teens.

“One of the things we often say is tobacco use is a pediatric epidemic, meaning it starts with teens,” Bramwell said. “About 90 percent of adult smokers started before the age of 18.”

Food and Drug Administration officials estimate about 3,200 teenagers try their first cigarette everyday and 700 of those teens become daily smokers.

“Many teens start smoking and think, ‘I’ll quit before anything bad happens to me,’ or, ‘That’s going to happen to somebody else, that isn’t going to happen to me,’” Bramwell said. “Unfortunately, that is not the case. Teens grow older, and they often then are burdened from a disease that results from tobacco use.”

Andre Womack, a former USU student who has smoked since he was 17, said he doesn’t believe the bill would prevent people from smoking.

“The people who are smoking at 19 were probably already smoking before they were 19,” he said.

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