SALT LAKE CITY — A state lawmaker criticized a push to water down anti-vaping bills in the face of a public health crisis involving Utah's youth.
Rep. Jennifer Dailey-Provost, D-Salt Lake City, was pushing for her House Bill 118 to pass. She said she had compromised on her ban of flavored vape juices to allow menthol. Rep. Dailey-Provost noted that state lawmakers were talking about cracking down on youth access to e-cigarettes.
"In the last year it appeared to me that finally our state and our legislature had collected the political will to make meaningful change in this space. Leadership in our legislature hosted meetings of stakeholders and even brought together a working group to discuss policy that would actually make a difference for the children in our state," she said during a hearing before the Senate Business and Labor Committee.
"But now, it appears that lever is being pulled by 'Big Tobacco,' nefarious store owners who make a regular habit of preying on vulnerable children and dishonest lobbyists who muddy the waters. And our legislature will, yet again, ignore the opportunity to make meaningful change htat will finally stem the tide of youth addiction."
Rep. Dailey-Provost's bill gave local health departments more power over stores that sold e-cigarettes and prohibited some shops from offering discounts or giveaways for tobacco products. The Utah Retail Merchants Association opposed the bill. Local health departments and the Utah Department of Health supported it.
The bill failed on a 2-2 vote.
The Senate Business and Labor Committee did approve Rep. Jon Hawkins' House Bill 23 that raised the e-cigarette age to 21, but also gave a "grandfather" clause to some stores that sell tobacco products until they can move away from being located near schools. The Utah Department of Health objected to a clause that pre-empted more local rules on tobacco shops in favor of the state law.
"The purpose of this bill is to protect our youth," Rep. Hawkins, R-Provo, said in defending his bill.
The committee passed it on a 5-2 vote and it goes to the full Senate.