2016 Bills

HB157: Prohibiting Adults from Buying and Using Cigarettes

This bill failed in committee on a 4-8 vote.

Libertas Institute opposes this bill.

In Utah, legal adults who are age 18 are prohibited from purchasing or possessing tobacco, e-cigarettes, or tobacco paraphernalia; you must be at least 19 years old to purchase them. Offenders of this law are punished with a class C misdemeanor.

Representative Kraig Powell has sponsored House Bill 157 in an attempt to raise the age limit from 19 to 21. If enacted into law, this would prohibit legal adults age 18, 19, or 20 from purchasing or possessing the same list of items. It would also ban the sale of such items to those under 21, and prohibit those under 21 from being present at certain establishments where such items are sold or used—unless accompanied by a parent—unless you’re “an active duty member of the United States Armed Forces.”

Rep. Powell sponsored similar legislation last year, but it did not receive a vote. In 2014, Senator Stuart Reid proposed legislation to raise the age limit, but it was defeated in the Senate on a 12-16 vote.

Legal adults who can vote, die in battle, and pay taxes should not be legally punished for smoking. While individuals both young and old should avoid this unhealthy behavior, the government has no place in using the force of law to punish it.

  • MCAH

    One of the main arguments for this bill is the high cost of health care that smokers put on the rest of the citizens. If we use that as an argument to prohibit adults from making unhealthy, financially expensive decisions, we would also need to prohibit sugar as obesity and related diseases far surpasses tobacco use in terms of healthcare costs. The other argument is that if the age limit is higher it will be harder for minors to get access to cigarettes and this will help prevent them from smoking. Having an age limit of 21 for alcohol doesn’t prevent minors from drinking and having a limit of 19 for tobacco hasn’t stopped those who want to from smoking. The average person first starts smoking around the age of 14. Closing the 19-21 year old access will not change that. Determined teenagers can be seen picking up half smoked cigarette butts in parking lots and smoking those. They will find it if they want it badly enough.

    The only thing this law accomplishes is sends the message that at 18 years old you are old enough to fight, die, and/or kill for your country, old enough to be required to pay income taxes, drive a vehicle, sign a contract, be charged as an adult with a crime, and be accountable in all other ways an adult is held accountable. But you can’t decide whether or not you should smoke. Instead of making these decisions illegal, we should be focused on increased education and awareness about the dangers of these habits. When I was a younger kid we know smoking was “bad” but we hardly understood why. We know so much more about it now that more people are choosing not to because they see the damage it causes. Let’s help teens not start in the first place by understanding what causes that choice and helping to prevent it through education instead of law, and help those who want to quit to do so. Mr. Powell also estimates that based on his assumed success of this bill, it will cost the state roughly $2 Million in tax revenue from a decrease in cigarette sales. The state should not be profiting from people’s “sins” in the first place.

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