"Everything in the resolution is supported by science and research. It's not just a kooky thing that some politician from Mormon Utah came up with. It's bigger than that." —Sen. Todd Weiler
SALT LAKE CITY — A state senator wants Utah to declare pornography a public health crisis.
Sen. Todd Weiler has introduced a resolution, SCR9, in the state Legislature calling for education, prevention, research and policy changes to address the pornography "epidemic." He said Monday that new research shows pornography, like cigarettes or drugs, is addictive and harmful to society.
"Everything in the resolution is supported by science and research. It's not just a kooky thing that some politician from Mormon Utah came up with. It's bigger than that," Weiler said.
The Woods Cross Republican said he was mocked on social media all weekend by people who say pornography isn't addictive or harmful.
"I personally believe it is. I think the science shows that it is. I believe that's a discussion we should be having because it's impacting divorces, it's impacting our youth, it's undermining the family," he said.
The proposal is scheduled for a hearing in the Senate Health and Human Service Committee on Friday. The nonbinding resolution doesn't create any new laws or regulations.
Weiler said he sees it as a "notice" or "warning." In 2013, the Legislature passed his resolution saying soft-core or "gateway" pornography is detrimental to brain development in young people.
Senate Republican leaders said they support the resolution. Senate Minority Leader Gene Davis, D-Salt Lake City, said he hasn't read the legislation but questions how pornography is defined.
"Where do you cross that line?" he said.
Senate President Wayne Neiderhauser, R-Sandy, said the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled pornography legal based on the First Amendment.
"But for heaven sakes, we gotta protect our children against this. We do everything we can to protect them from alcohol and tobacco. This can be more destructive than any of those habit-forming substances," he said.
Weiler said he recognizes that adults have the right to view pornography. But to pretend that it doesn't have an impact on families and culture is naive, he said. He said he favors the "opt in" approach England has for viewing pornography on the Internet.
"I would love for the United States to do that, but I can't do that as a Utah state senator," he said. "But I would love to lay the foundation for a national discussion on what we can do to protect people from this harmful substance that's undermining a lot of the pillars of our society."
Weiler said he found it alarming that the average age for first being exposed to pornography is 11. He compared knowledge of the harmful effects of pornography to that of nicotine in the 1950s.
"Before you pick up a cigarette today, you know that you may be acquiring an addiction," he said. "I would like people to know that with porn before they approach it."
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