February 28, 2011 - Tobacco products that look, smell or taste like candy are in the cross hairs of a local lawmaker. Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clinton, sponsored House Bill 170 (H.B. 170 Tobacco and Nicotine Product Amendments Sponsor: Paul Ray, R-Clearfield) which would have banned any tobacco product from resembling candy in any way, shape or form.
Background:But the House Business and Labor Committee voted 4-8 against the bill Friday, February 25th in a committee room packed with anti-tobacco activists wearing buttons reading, "Three can kill."
August 24, 2010 - Utah - more on bill to ban flavored tobacco products..;
August 10, 2010 - Utah - bill introduced that makes it a misdemeanor to buy or sell flavored tobacco products..
"I'll see you next year," Ray said after the vote. Some of those who voted against the bill said tobacco products such as chewing tobacco, cigarettes and cigars are legal for those 19 and older to buy in Utah. They also said adults should be able to choose if they want to buy flavored nicotine products.
Ray brought samples of nicotine products that looked like candy for committee members to see.
The House Business and Labor Committee voted down a bill that would have prevented nicotine candies from being sold in Utah. The candy is not currently sold in the state, but tobacco companies are putting the candies in test markets now.
Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clearfield, the sponsor of the legislation, claims he had commitments from enough members of the committee before the vote that he expected the bill to pass. "We had enough commitments going in and some of them didn't vote how they told us," Ray said.
One high school student was in tears after the vote as he had personally made calls to the lawmakers on the committee asking them to vote for the bill. He said he didn't understand how they could vote against the ban. "I'm disappointed that our state officers can't make a decision to protect the kids," said Nick Porter, a student at Bonneville High School.
Opponents to the bill argued not for the nicotine candies but for a person's right to choose for themselves if they would consume the candies. They also disputed arguments that a child would get their hands on the product easily because the product would be sold under the same regulations that other nicotine products are sold, behind the counter to persons 19 or older. The opposition to the bill also claimed that just because something is sweet, that doesn't mean it was meant for child consumption.
"There seems to be some feeling that if a product has flavor in it, it is designed for kids," said Dave Davis of the Utah Retail Merchants Association. "I enjoy flavors in some things. I didn't lose my taste for flavor when I became 19 years old." Davis also argued that the candies may help cut down on second-hand smoke to children if a parent who smokes chose to use the candy instead of smoking. One tobacco shop owner suggested that the state pass a law to double the fine on companies who sell the product to minors and also stated that passing the ban on the candies would be the government getting in the way of the free market.
"This is an extreme example of government overreach," said Kenn Crandall, owner of Tinder Box, a tobacco shop in Murray.
Ray said he plans to meet with the committee over the next few days to see if he can sway them to change their minds to bring the bill back before the committee and vote in favor of the measure.
References: Bill banning nicotine candy sales voted down, Billy Hesterman, Daily Herald, 2/26/2011; Bill to ban candy-like tobacco is snuffed out by Loretta Park, Standard-Examiner staff, 2/25/2011.
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