Lehi becomes first Utah city to raise legal tobacco age to 21. It may not be the last.

The Salt Lake Tribune:

Lehi • The City Council here approved raising the legal age for tobacco to 21 in what is a first in Utah, where state law allows 19-year-olds to purchase and possess tobacco products.

The new ordinance, approved unanimously Tuesday night, also applies to e-cigarettes. It will take effect 20 days after it is signed and posted.

Ryan Bartlett, spokesman for the state Health Department’s Tobacco Prevention and Control Program, said he would love to see other Utah cities follow suit. “I know there are a few looking at it right now.”

Bartlett said there are 425 cities and counties in 23 states that have adopted 21 as the minimum age for tobacco.

In neighboring Colorado, the towns of Aspen, Basalt and Avon passed their own Tobacco 21 policies, one after another, starting in 2017.

Bartlett said he has noticed that when a city passes a Tobacco 21 policy, other grass-roots movements tend to pop up in other localities and municipalities soon after.

Tobacco 21 laws can legally trump Utah law because there is no pre-emptive language blocking political subdivisions from passing more restrictive rules, Bartlett said. Cities, however, can’t set the legal age below 19.

Hawaii is one of six states that have implemented Tobacco 21 policies and was the first to do so in 2016. Bartlett said Oregon, California, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Maine adopted similar statutes in subsequent years.

Just last week, Richard Creagan, a Hawaii representative, introduced a bill proposing to raise the minimum age for tobacco in his state to 100 by 2024.

Utah’s law has set the minimum age at 19 since 1963. But for a half-century before that, tobacco buyers had to be 21 or older, according to Bartlett. Before 1911, the legal age was 18.

Localities and states that pass Tobacco 21 measures do ultimately restrict young people’s access to cigarettes and other tobacco products — an important feat, Bartlett said, as research shows the younger someone starts tobacco use, the more likely he or she is to become hooked.

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February 13, 2019