City officials, picking up the ball where the state Legislature dropped it last year, are pushing for restrictions on how tobacco products are displayed in stores.
Mayor Don Poulsen on Thursday presented a model ordinance, drafted by City Attorney Martin Pezely, to the Salt Lake County Council of Governments, asking other local officials to support the measure.The ordinance, similar to the legislation Rep. Jordan Tanner, R-Provo, introduced last year, would move all tobacco products from open display bins and place them behind retail counters and in other locations out of consumers' reach. A customer, for example, would have to ask for cigarettes instead of simply picking up a pack or carton and going through the checkout line.
In order to have any impact, Poulsen told the Council of Governments, all municipalities need to participate.
"Maybe this will send a message to the Legislature that we're not listening to the tobacco lobbyists; we're taking this in our own hands," Poulsen told the Deseret News. "We support this in Midvale city and hopefully all (Salt Lake County governments will) so at least we can block this out throughout the valley."
Sandy Mayor Tom Dolan, Council of Governments chairman, thought the proposal was well-received.
"It was generally supported by all the cities," Dolan said. "We agreed we would take it to the city councils to determine if they would like to implement either the ordinance that was written by Midvale or make some changes or adaptation."
Poulsen said the idea for a local ordinance came from Midvale's Coalition on Drug and Alcohol Abuse, which identified the accessibility of tobacco products as a problem in the community, particularly in relation to teen smoking.
"We're trying to prevent any way of underage youth getting tobacco products on the open market. Maybe it will cut down on young people beginning the tobacco habit," Poulsen said. "It's an ordinance that prohibits practically anyone from acquiring tobacco except through a clerk, so tobacco to be sold is not in a position where anybody can just go pick it up.
"It will more than likely require closed doors on displays (which would be located) behind counters or locked."
Poulsen said Midvale could be the first city to pass the ordinance when the City Council considers it later this month.
Tanner's bill, which would have required tobacco products to be stored behind counters or in overhead bins, died on the floor of the House last session.
Utah already leads the nation in restrictions on cigarettes, according to a report released in November by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.