Utah bill speeds up ban on smoking and vaping under age 21

Utah lawmakers voted 5-2 on Monday in the Senate Business and Labor Committee in favor of a bill to make tobacco illegal to anyone under 21.

“Tobacco and vaping has become quite a pandemic among our youth,” said bill sponsor, Rep. Jon Hawkins, R-Pleasant Grove.

A federal law passed in December also sets 21 as the minimum age for tobacco and vaping products.

Utah law has a law to phase this in over the next couple of years to meet the federal requirement by the year 2022. Hawkins explained that HB23 removes the phase-in process and “makes tobacco illegal for anyone under the age of 21 in this year.”

The bill would also impose penalties on business owners, providers and employees who sell tobacco to anyone under 21. It would allow for investigation and inspection between two and four times per year from both health agencies and local law enforcement to make sure businesses comply with the rules.

HB23 would give businesses two years to either comply with the law or shut down. An exception would be made for businesses located within 1,000 feet of schools or community colleges which would only have until Aug. 15, 2020, to relocate.

Another change the bill would make is to consider retail tobacco a specialty business. Walter Plumb with Drug Safe Utah raised concerns that the bill would create an unlimited number of specialty shops which can sell flavored vapes.

“It’s totally, completely, ludicrous and ridiculous," said Plumb. He worried that this would increase marketing of tobacco products to youth throughout the state.