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A ban on all tobacco sales? House votes yes - then no

House members got a little crazy Thursday morning and, for a short time, outlawed the sale of tobacco in Utah.

But they changed their minds in the afternoon, restored Rep. Carl Saunders' bill to its original intent and sent in off to the Senate.Saunders, R-Weber, wants to force retailers to either lock cigarettes in closed cases or keep them behind the counter, all aimed at keeping teenagers from stealing them. A similar bill proposed several years ago was killed by strong opposition by the Utah Retailers Association.

But this year Saunders says he has the support of grocers and others who opposed the matter before.

However, he got crossways with House Democrats Thursday. House Minority Leader Dave Jones, D-Salt Lake, said it was "time to get real on this topic." If the House isn't a bunch of hypocrites, said Jones, it should just ban the sale of cigarettes not raise taxes on the product or say where and how it should be sold.

The state is "not addicted to tobacco, we're addicted to tobacco tax revenues," said Jones, noting that a 25-cent-per-pack increase in the state tax last year raised $20 million, yet Republicans only put $250,000 in teen-smoking prevention programs.

His amendment to ban tobacco sales passed with a mix of support by Democrats and conservative Republicans who hate tobacco use.

But Rep. Marty Stephens, R-Farr West, put it best. He urged legislators not to do that, for he could envision the headlines in USA Today saying the hicks in Utah had banned cigarettes.

After lunch Republican leaders had rallied their troops. When the motion was made to take out Jones' amendments, he wasn't allowed to speak. Jones then blew a train whistle, indicating that he was being railroaded. "That is out of order," sternly said House Speaker Mel Brown, R-Union.

Jones was allowed to speak before the Saunders' bill was passed, 60-12, and sent to the Senate.