Utah Proposes Raising Minimum Purchase Age

Legislation would prohibit tobacco sales to anyone under 21

Melissa Vonder Haar, Freelance Writer

Utah Proposes Raising Minimum Purchase Age

SALT LAKE CITY -- Senator Stuart Reid (R--Ogden) has introduced legislation that would raise Utah’s age limit on tobacco products from 19 to 21, thanks in part to support from the Health and Human Services Interim Committee in November.

“Increasing the legal age of sale is likely to have a significant impact in reducing tobacco use among the young and limit their access to this highly addictive, deadly product,” testified Beverly May, regional advocacy director for the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, to the Interim Committee. “Young brains are still developing through the teen years and offsetting the daily use of tobacco products will reduce the addiction and dependency on nicotine. Any effort to prevent tobacco use among young people is worthwhile. It will save lives.”

Reid’s bill, known as SB-12, not only raises the purchase age for cigarettes and other tobacco products (including electronic cigarettes), but also enforces stricter penalties on individuals attempting to illegally purchase or consume tobacco. Under the current law, a child under the age of 18 can go through the juvenile court system; under SB-12, 19-to-21 year olds would be guilty of a class C misdemeanor.

The penalties for retailers who sell to anyone under the legal purchase age would remain the same: a class C misdemeanor for first time offenders, class B for the second offense and class C for third time offenders.

Not everyone is onboard with the proposal: Senator Todd Weiler (R--Woods Cross) raised objections at the Interim Committee session, asking why 21 is better than the current age of 19, or why 21 is an ideal age compared to 25.

Utah is the latest in a slew of cities and states proposing an increase to the tobacco purchase age: New York City officially raised the age to 21, while Chicago, New Jersey and New York State all have similar legislation pending.