After Joan Smith and her students at Pleasant Grove High School lobbied to keep tobacco products out of easy reach in stores, they now want the governor to veto a bill that would do just that.
Smith, her students and the American Cancer Society want Gov. Mike Leavitt to veto the bill because it contains a provision that would deprive local communities of the ability to regulate tobacco products."The tobacco companies couldn't have gotten a better bill," Smith said. "It's wrapped in sheep's clothing."
The bill's sponsor said the amendment makes the state's tobacco laws uniform and that any imperfections could be hammered out later.
For years, tobacco opponents have pushed for legislation that would require storekeepers to put cigarettes, chewing tobacco and other tobacco products either behind the counter or in a locked cabinet to prevent shoplifting.
Carl Saunders, R-Ogden, introduced a bill that would require cigarette and tobacco sales be conducted in a face-to-face exchange. The bill was later amended by Rep. Bill Wright, R-Elberta, to exempt cartons from the restriction and bar any local tobacco law that does not directly mirror the rules.
Smith said that last provision, inserted at the request of the Utah Retail Merchants Association, kills local restrictions, such as the one Pleasant Grove passed several years ago. It deprives a community of the ability to enact a stronger law if circumstances require it.
Smith's students have written letters asking Leavitt to veto the bill.
Marion Peterson, the cancer society's Utah Division vice president of cancer control, said the language is a standard pre-emption clause supported by the tobacco industry. She said the clause allows the tobacco companies to blunt the effects of legislation that could harm market positions.
"The American Cancer Society will not support legislation that contains pre-emption," Peterson said. "We love (Saunders') bill, except for that one paragraph."
Saunders said the ACS and Smith are not in the majority on this issue. He said student groups, local governments and law enforcement officials in Weber County support the measure and they're petitioning the governor to sign it.
"There needs to be some uniformity in the state. Can you imagine how much time, effort and money it would take to enforce all the different laws?" Saunders said.
He said the retailers association asked for the amendment so its members would know the rules in all communities.