A Bill, would have banned statewide sales and consumption of all tobacco products that taste or look like candy, was sponsored by Paul Ray, R-Clearfield was considered last week in Utah. The Utah Business and Labor Committee voted down the bill by 4 votes to 8 during the final hearing of the bill held in the committee room where many anti-tobacco advocates cheered for the ban.
Several lawmakers that were against the measure stated tobacco products such as loose tobacco, moist tobacco and cigars are legal for people aged 19 years old and older to purchase across Utah. The also admitted that adult tobacco consumers should be able to decide whether they want to consume flavored tobacco on their own.
During the hearing, Rep. Ray, author of the ban presented several flavored tobacco products that resembled candy for the members of the committee.
Still, the Committee decided to vote down the bill which would have banned flavored nicotine products from sales in Utah. Several candy flavored tobacco products like Snus are not sold in Utah, however, are test-marketed in several other states and could be launched nationally very soon if the customers’ feedback is positive.
Rep. Paul Ray states he had managed to collect enough votes from the committee members before the vote started. “We received enough commitments for the bill, but some of the members changed their votes at the last moment,” he claimed.
Some supporters of the bill were in tears after the vote ended, since they personally tried to convince the lawmakers to vote for the bill. They declared that didn’t understand why the lawmakers voted against the measure, and said the state legislators failed to protect the children from the dangers of tobacco but turning down the bill.
Opponents of the bill said adult tobacco consumers should have the right to decide for themselves if they would purchase the candy flavored tobacco. They also contested arguments that minors could reach the products easily, since the products are sold under the same restrictions and in the same section as all other tobacco products. In addition, the bill’s opponents stated that simply because a product is sweet, that doesn’t mean it could be used by minors,
“Some people seem to have a prejudice that in case a product is flavored, it targets children,” stated Dave Davis, spokesman for the Utah Retail Merchants Association. He also said that candy-flavored products might help reduce exposure to second-hand smoke in minors since parents who smoke cigarettes could prefer to have the candy instead of cigarettes.
An owner of a tobacco store said that approving the bill would be government restricting the free market and said that instead of banning a legal product the lawmakers should approve a measure to increase the fines on stores that sell tobacco products to adolescents.
Rep. Paul Ray admitted he would try to meet with the members of the committee again and convince them to change their minds and pass the bill.