After beginning the process of raising the minimum age to purchase tobacco products from 19 to 21 late in 2013, Utah Senator Stuart Reid (R-Ogden) officially introduced legislation today that would make that proposal a reality, according to a report on CSPNet.com.
Senate Bill 12 would not only raise the minimum age to purchase tobacco products and e-cigarettes, but would also increase the penalties for an underage person purchasing or consuming tobacco. Currently, an individual under the age of 18 would go through the juvenile court system. If the proposed bill passes, adults under the age of 21 purchasing or consuming tobacco products would be guilty of a class C misdemeanor, putting it on par with public intoxication, driving without a license or driving with a suspended license. Currently, class C misdemeanors in Utah are punishable by up to 90 days in jail and fines up to $750.
The bill would maintain the current penalties for retailers selling to those under age. Currently, it is a class C misdemeanor to sell tobacco product to a person under 21, with the penalty increasing to a class B misdemeanor on a second offense, which comes with up to six months in jail and up to $1,000 in fines, and a class A misdemeanor on subsequent offenses, punishable by up to one year in jail and fines of up to $2,500.
In November, 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 has garnered support in both chambers of the Utah legislature, with Rep. Kraig Powell, R-Heber City, joining Sen. Reid in drafting the legislation.
Utah is regarded as one of the most hostile states toward tobacco products, including a cigar tax of 86 percent of the wholesale price. It is the highest uncapped tax in the nation, after it was raised from 35 percent in 2010.
Earlier in 2013, 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.