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Lawmakers seek to increase legal smoking age in Utah

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 Utah) – Two Utah lawmakers are hoping to keep cigarettes out of the hands of young people by raising the legal smoking age in our state.
SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 Utah) – Two Utah lawmakers are hoping to keep cigarettes out of the hands of young people by raising the legal smoking age in our state.

Republican State Senator, Stuart Reid and Republican Representative, Kraig Powell are sponsoring a bill that changes the age from 19 to 21.

Representative Powell says studies show those who start young are more likely to become habitual smokers by the age of 20.

"The intention of the bill is to catch as many people as we can during that crucial window in the late teens, around 20 years old," said Powell.

He claims the bill will also cut down on minors getting tobacco products illegally. He says 90% of the time underage smokers get it from people who are under 21.

"What it shows to me is that people who are just a little more seasoned, a little more mature realize the incredible danger smoking presents," said Powell.

Some smokers say those who want the products will find a way to get them.

"I’m going to break the door of the smoke shop in or I’m going to go into Smith's and shove a gun in someone's face. I'm going to get them anyway I can, so by doing that they are going to create more crime," said John Morgan, referring to those who wouldn’t be able to get the products legally.

Others say it's a personal choice, one government should stay out of.

"If you can go to jail at 18 you should be able to smoke cigarettes or if you can join the army you should definitely be able to choose that for yourself," said smoker, Gabriel Bastian.

Another concern from opponents is the loss of tax revenue that will come with raising the age. Powell says the leading cause of heart disease and lung cancer in our state is far more costly in the long run.

"The medical costs that are imposed by all of the human damage that occurs from cigarettes is just staggering, it's in the hundreds of millions of dollars in Utah," said Powell.

A committee hearing has not been set for the bill just yet. Powell says the most important step over the next few months is public dialogue.

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