On the heels of similar legislation in New York City, the Utah Health and Human Services Interim Committee passed a bill that would raise the minimum age to purchase and possess cigars and other tobacco produces from 19 years of age to 21.
The bill, which has support in both chambers of the Utah Legislature would further cement the Beehive State as the unfriendliest in the nation towards cigars. Utah’s cigar tax of 86 percent of the wholesale price is the highest uncapped tax in the nation, after it was raised from 35 percent in 2010.
Sen. Stuart Reid, R-Ogden, and Rep. Kraig Powell, R-Heber City, have co-drafted the legislation and presented the changes to the Committee on November 20.
Unlike New York City, the proposed legislation in Utah would make it illegal for anyone to possess tobacco or tobacco paraphernalia. Those ages 18-20 would face a minimum fine of $60 and required participation in a court-approved tobacco education program for possession.
Earlier this year, the legislature voted down H.B. 372 which would have banned non face-to-face sales, i.e. internet and catalog sales. That bill, sponsored by Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clinton, failed 29-44 with two lawmakers abstaining. Ray has previously proposed other legislation, including banning flavored cigars.
Ray sits on the Health and Human Services Interim Committee and was not one of the five members who voted against the bill. While the minutes from the Committee have not been posted, audio and the draft legislation is available here.
The proposed legislation now moves to the full floor of the Legislature, which will reconvene in January.
In addition to New York City, Hawai’i County recently approved increasing the minimum age to purchase tobacco to 21, the city of Washington D.C. is expected to debate the measure in the coming future.