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A Senate committee on Monday doused, at least temporarily, a move to clearly ban anyone younger than 19 from specialty smoke shops.
Two members of the Senate Judiciary Committee said even though the legal smoking age is 19 in Utah, banning someone from being in a smoke shop without a parent goes too far and they want exemptions for active military members, and people such as those who make deliveries or repairs to such businesses.
Rep. Kraig Powell, R-Heber City, said his HB131 simply makes clear what has been longtime Utah policy, even though current statutes are a bit murky. The bill earlier passed the House on a 73-0 vote.
"If that's the current law, wow, I don't like it," said Committee Chairman Mark Madsen, R-Saratoga Springs. "We're criminalizing the very presence in a space, whether you're doing anything that's wrong or not."
He added young delivery or repair people may need to enter for their jobs. "This is exactly the worst kind of law because then it is left up to the discretion" of police and prosecutors whether to enforce it against such people.
"If you're saying this clarifies bad law, I don't like it," he said.
Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, added that many young people stationed at Hill Air Force Base started smoking in other states where it is legal at age 18 or even younger. He said he worries if one of those 18-year-olds wanders into a smoke shop, "now we're going to cite them criminally."
Weiler noted that the bill likely would have died Monday if put to a vote, so the committee held it to allow Powell to try to carve out exemptions for active military, and people who provide service to such businesses.
Powell noted he is sponsoring another bill, HB130, to raise the legal smoking age in Utah to 21, but has already included an exemption in it for active military personnel who are transferred to Utah.