SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) – A new bill is being introduced at the State Capitol that would increase the legal age to purchase tobacco and other related products.
It’s one of a couple of bills aimed at keeping them out of the hands of teenagers.
When teens light up, it can lead to a lifetime of addiction.
“About 95 percent of smokers become smokers before they turn 21, and a lot of smokers transition between 18 and 21 from kind of an experimental, occasional smoker, to a daily habitual smoker,” said Brook Carlisle with the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network.
An addiction that can take a deadly turn.
“We know that tobacco use is the number one cause of preventable death in the United States,” Carlisle said.
That has lawmakers taking action.
Representative Steve Eliason has a bill to gradually raise the legal age to 21 over the next two years.
The “Tobacco 21” movement is picking up steam across the country.
“A number of other states, including a Utah city just yesterday, have been raising the age because they know it’s one of the most effective things that we can do to prevent cancer and cardiovascular disease,” said Eliason, (R) Sandy.
That Utah city is Lehi, the first in the state to make the move.
And it’s not just government entities getting on board, Eliason says there is some surprise support this year.
“This year, I’m told that some of the largest tobacco companies are going to support this legislation,” he said.
Eliason’s bill also applies to electronic cigarette products.
And, Representative Paul Ray is building on that.
He’s bringing back his bill to tax the juice at 86.5 percent.
“All other tobaccos are taxed at 86.5 percent, with the exception of cigarettes as a per stick tax, so they would be taxed the same as all other tobacco products,” said Ray, (R) Clearfield.
Ray says that’s a crucial step in keeping it out of the hands of teenagers.
“If we can get the cost up on those, we know for a fact that kids will not use them,” he said.
Representative Jen Dailey-Provost, (D) Salt Lake City is also running a bill on e-cigarettes.
Her bill would only allow retailers to sell flavored products if they also enact age restrictions.