Lawmaker pushing to make the Utah State Capitol tobacco free

Rep. Bruce Cutler says it would ‘show we care about people’s health,’ but others say it could make life difficult for some state workers and Capitol visitors.<br>

Al Hartmann | The Salt LakeTribune No rain in sight. Tuesday June 20, the hottest day of the year was a fine day for a sun umbrellas as members of a Japanese tour group protect themselves from the blazing Utah sun while visiting the state capitol.

State Rep. Bruce Cutler asked top Utah officials Monday to ban tobacco use at the Capitol, including on its grounds and surrounding buildings.

But the Capitol Preservation Board — whose members include some fellow state legislators and other elected officials such as Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox and Attorney General Sean Reyes — worried how that may affect visitors and employees.

So it ordered more study, including about how many other state capitols nationwide ban tobacco use, how tourism companies believe it could affect international visitors and how difficult it might be to enforce such a ban.

Cutler, R-Murray, told the board he came up with the idea after reading that the University of Utah in August decided to ban tobacco and e-cigarette use on campus — joining Brigham Young University and Dixie State University in such prohibitions.

“It’s a great statement they have made that they care about the health of individuals,” he told the board. “Making the Capitol tobacco free” would “show we care about people’s health, care about the health of our employees.”

He noted the board has the power to impose such a ban, or it could be done through legislation.

Officials noted that smoking is already banned inside state buildings beyond designated smoking areas, so Cutler’s request would extend that to those areas and the Capitol grounds. Cutler said his proposal would still likely allow smoking on public sidewalks on the edge of Capitol Hill.

Allyson Gamble, executive director of the preservation board, said the Capitol attracts 200,000 to 250,000 visitors a year, and about 50,000 of them are international travelers who arrive on bus tours.

“It is observed that a lot of our foreign tourists are smoking by the buses, not in the building,” she said.

Sen. Pete Knudson, R-Brigham City, expressed concern that the move perhaps seeks to correct problems that don’t exist, since the state apparently has received no complaints about the current situation.