Utah Senate Rejects Bill To Increase Smoking Age To 21

Mar 4, 2014

S.B. 12 was rejected by the Senate with a 12-16 vote. The bill would've made Utah the only state in the nation where a person would have to be 21 years old to purchase tobacco products.
Credit April Ashland / Utah Public Radio

A bill that would have raised the legal age to buy tobacco products in Utah has died in the Senate. 

Senate Bill 12 would have made Utah the only state in the country where a person would have to be 21 years old to buy tobacco products.

Utah is one of four states where the purchasing age is 19, which is currently the highest age to buy tobacco products in the nation at the state level.

The Senate failed to pass the bill with 12 senators for and 16 against. Sen. Karen Mayne (D-Salt Lake County) said she doesn’t see why the smoking age should be raised when people can do more dangerous things, like driving cars or serving in the military, when they are 19.

"I have problems with this," Mayne said. "I think everybody should have self-determination, and maybe we've gone a step too far if we're the only state that's doing this. There's personal responsibility somewhere."

Utah’s bill is not the only one that would raise the smoking age in the U.S. Similar bills have popped up in California, Hawaii, Massachusetts and New Jersey. Lawmakers in Maryland rejected a similar bill last month, and New York City set the smoking age to 21 late last year.

Jessica Bater is a technician for the animal, dairy and veterinary sciences department at Utah State University who is from Switzerland. She said everyone knows the health effects of tobacco, but in the end, it’s a personal decision.

"It's OK to protect, especially the young kids, that they don't smoke, but I don't think it makes a difference if you make the law to 18 or 21," Bater said. 

-Eric Jungblut is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism at Utah State University.

-Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.