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Utah lawmakers kill bill raising smoking age to 21

By: MICHELLE L. PRICE
March 4, 2014 Updated: March 4, 2014 at 5:17 pm
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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah legislators have killed a proposal that could have made their state the first to raise the age for legal tobacco purchases to 21.

The bill's sponsor, Republican state Sen. Stuart Reid, had urged support for the measure so Utah could "set the example and make a statement to the nation."

Similar measures have been introduced in Colorado, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Hawaii this year. None of the measures have come close to becoming law, and it is unclear how many have momentum. Maryland lawmakers rejected a version of the plan last month.

The state-level proposals follow a precedent-setting New York City regulation that put the legal age for tobacco purchases at 21.

Several senators said they're concerned about the negative effects of smoking, but couldn't support the measure.

"When do you become an adult?" asked Sen. Todd Weiler, a Woods Cross Republican, on Tuesday. "If you raise it to 21, why not 23? Why not 25? Why not 50?"

The Utah Senate voted 12-16 against the bill Monday, arguing that the proposal infringes on the rights of legal adults to purchase a legal product.

Reid, of Ogden, had said the proposal would bring the smoking age in line with the legal age to purchase and drink alcohol.

He said that smoking had no value and that "when we identify something of no inherent value, we put limitations on it."

Reid also said his bill could prevent young people from becoming addicted to tobacco because it delays their access to it.

Opponents of his bill argued there's no evidence to support that.

Utah already is among a four states that ban sales for those younger than 19, instead of 18.

In November, New York City became the first large city to ban tobacco sales to people younger than 21.

Utah has the nation's lowest smoking rate, about 12 percent in 2011, the most recent year statistics are available, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Of the roughly 200,000 smokers in Utah, almost 90 percent started before age 18, according to the most recent report from Utah Department of Health's Tobacco Prevention and Control Program.

Reid's bill would have been effective in 2016, which he said gives the 18-, 19- and 20-year-olds who already smoke enough time to reach the new minimum age.

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Online:

SB 12: http://1.usa.gov/1eaSQfY

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Associated Press Writer Annie Knox contributed to this report.

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