HB 324: Criminalizing Adult Tobacco Use
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In another attempt to stop the harmful effects of tobacco use, Representative Steve Eliason is sponsoring House Bill 324. The bill would raise the legal age from 19 to 21 for Utahns to purchase, possess, or use tobacco products and electronic smoking devices.
An 18-year-old is a legal adult who can purchase a firearm, get married, take out thousands of dollars in loans for school or housing, and even join the military. But HB 324 aims to take tobacco out of the hands of legal adults. This is the fourth attempt to pass such legislation, following failed bills in 2018, 2016, and 2014.
While this bill has good intentions, legislators should recognize that it does something that will have a far greater impact on an individual’s life than a cigarette will: it criminalizes yet another action for Utahns who are 19 and 20 years old.
Under this legislation, adults under 21 years old who possess a cigar, cigarette, electronic cigarette, or tobacco in any form would be guilty of a class C misdemeanor and sentenced to a mandatory fine and participation in a tobacco education course. Further, a criminal penalty is imposed on other people who provide a 19 or 20-year-old a cigarette or tobacco item.
The possibility of jail time for such a supposed crime is absurd for an independent adult to be facing because of arbitrary age restrictions.