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Lawmakers reject proposal to raise age for tobacco use

By Ryan Morgan | Posted - Mar. 6, 2017 at 6:56 p.m.



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SALT LAKE CITY — A bill proposing to raise the age to purchase or use tobacco narrowly failed Monday in a legislative committee, dooming the legislation as the 2017 Legislature nears its end.

Lawmakers in the House Business and Labor Committee narrowly voted down HB406 with a 5-6 vote. It's unlikely the bill will be considered again before the session ends at midnight Thursday.

The bill called for the minimum age for obtaining, possessing or using tobacco products to increase to 20 on July 1, 2018, and then go to 21 on Jan. 1, 2019.

Bill sponsor Rep. Steve Eliason, R-Sandy, said the age change would create a greater buffer between teens and tobacco use by widening the gap between underage teens and older friends who buy tobacco products on their behalf.

"You never miss that which you never had," Eliason said.

The proposal for a phased implementation of tobacco restrictions, as well as the associated cost, received scrutiny from some members of the committee.

Rep. Curt Webb, R-Logan, questioned the cost of the bill after its attached fiscal note suggested it would lead to a decline in revenue.

Elaison said a cost analysis of the bill did not account for growth projections.

"The growth in those accounts is fairly robust, and the growth in those accounts should easily cover the loss in revenue from these two age groups as they phase out," he said.

Rep. Susan Duckworth, D-Magna, who voted in favor of the bill, said she supported the idea but had reservations about the inconsistent age restrictions being placed on young adults.

"Between firearms, tobacco and alcohol, I think we need to be a little more consistent with our nannying of our young adults," Duckworth said.

Email: rmorgan@deseretnews.com

Ryan Morgan

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