Utah lawmakers vote for increasing smoking age to 21

Utah lawmakers on Thursday voted in favour of rising smoking age, already highest among the states, from 19 to 21.

The move is inspired by new research on how many smokers start the habit as teenagers.

The Senate Health and Human Services Committee voted 4-1 to endorse SB12. The committee sent the same to the full Senate.

Critics have argued that adults should be free to make even bad choices to buy legal products.

Sen. Stuart Reid, R-Ogden, sponsor of the bill, said that the bill is amended in a way it would not take effect until July 1, 2016, allowing legal smokers who are now 19, 20 to turn 21 before it come into effect.

A man smokes a cigarette at a coffee sho

Reid also called on a long line of physicians to testify about how smoking hurts health.

Many teenagers obtain cigarettes from friends who are 19 or 20 and can buy them legally therefore, the bill could cut teen smoking, they argued.

Dave Davis, head of the Utah Food Industry Association/Utah Retail Merchants Association, said SB12 is ‘not a youth-protection bill’.

“It will prevent folks we have determined are legal adults from getting access to a legal product,” Davis said.