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Legislative committee snuffs out bill to raise legal age to use tobacco

By Emily Larson

For the Deseret News

Published: Monday, Feb. 29 2016 2:55 p.m. MST

FILE - Rep. Kraig Powell, R-Heber City, speaking on KSL Newsradio's Doug Wright Show, Tuesday, Mar. 15, 2011, used his weekly Keeping House column in the Uintah Basin Standard and a call to a Heber City radio program to express his personal shame for voting in favor HB477 — which he called an "abomination" — and to offer an explanation for his actions.

Chuck Wing, Deseret News

Enlarge photo»

SALT LAKE CITY — The House Revenue and Taxation Committee voted down a bill Monday that would have raised the legal age of tobacco use from 19 to 21.

Rep. Kraig Powell, R-Heber City, presented a list of 10 reasons to support HB157 to the committee, helped by Joseph Cieslewicz, Wasatch High School's student body president.

Powell and Cieslewicz argued that changing the age would stop younger kids from getting cigarettes from their 19- and 20-year-old friends.

The bill would have gone into effect on July 1, 2018.

"This brings home the point that this is not a punitive measure to punish people in your generation who already smoke. This is a preventative measure to help people in my generation just think twice before making that fatal decision," Cieslewicz said of the proposed two-year implementation delay.

The bill had a projected $2 million per year in lost revenue to the state.

Josh Daniels from the Libertas Institute said the Legislature should not criminalize adult behavior.

"We keep changing the age of when adults begin to be adults," Daniels said.

Daniels said Libertas supports smoker education because "when people know smoking's bad, they'll make the choice not to smoke."

Rep. Eric Hutchings, R-Kearns, said that while there are some rights that should be granted to everyone, when society has to take on the consequences of those rights, society needs to limit the consequences.

"This is a cost shifting. That's all this is. People make their decisions and dump their millions and millions and millions of dollars of bad choices onto other people who didn't make bad choices and are still working so that they can now pay for the people who made dumb decisions," Hutchings said.

"If there was any potential upside to smoking, then obviously this would be a different conversation. But there isn't," he added.

The committee voted the bill down with a 4-8 vote.

Email: elarson@deseretnews.com

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