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2 bills on tobacco access move forward to the House

Two bills aimed at limiting minors' access to tobacco were forwarded to the House by the House Natural Resources Committee Friday.

HB31, sponsored by Rep. Carl Saunders, R-Ogden, would require "face-to-face" sale of tobacco products.Vending machines and self-service displays would be prohibited, except in the case of private clubs and tobacco shops. Those establishments would be required to limit minors' access to vending devices. Parents would be expected to control their children's access to the machines in those circumstances.

Jim Olsen of the Utah Retailers Association said merchants do not like mandates about how they must conduct their businesses but the association will not oppose the bill.

"We want to show you we care about youth," he said.

If passed, the bill wouldn't become law until January 1999, to give retailers time to remodel stores or check-out counters so that cigarettes are kept behind counters.

Saunders and Dr. Gordon Lindsey of the Coalition for Tobacco-Free Utah testified that tobacco companies pay premiums to convenience stores that place cigarettes on counter tops near other impulse purchase items.

SB87, which would criminalize attempts by children to purchase tobacco, was forwarded with no debate.

"This provides that attempts to buy (tobacco) would be the same misdemeanor offense as possession or use," said the bill's sponsor Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper.