Utah legislature cracks down on teen vaping

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A slew of bills flooded the Utah legislature during the 2020 session in an attempt to combat underage smoking.

As a result, schools now have the ability to ban e-cigarettes usage and to destroy them. A vape shop can no longer be within 1,000 feet of a school. Taxes were also created on vaping products.  

Rep. Jon Hawkins, R-Pleasant Grove, sponsor of HB23, shared a story about how a Utah teen nearly died after developing a severe lung disease that put her into a coma. 18-year-old Maddy Nelson was diagnosed with acute eosinophilic pneumonia which doctors concluded to be a result of vaping.

Hawkins told the House Business and Labor Committee that 27.5 percent or nearly 1 million youth vape on a daily basis. “I have kids in highschool and middles school, so for me this hits home,” Hawkins said. 

HB23 raised the age to vape to 21 to align with the federal government. It also adds restrictions to vaping shops. It was signed into law March 23 by Gov. Gary Herbert.

Another bill aimed at stopping the teen vaping epidemic appeared before the House Education Committee. 

Rep. Susan Pulsipher, R-South Jordan wanted to combat vaping in schools and created HB58 titled Electronic Cigarettes in Schools Amendments. Recently signed by Herber, the law creates prevention programs to educate students. It also wanted schools to create plans to combat the causes of student usage of vape products.  Finally, the bill will allow administrators to ban vaping. To assist in this ban, the bill will allow administrators to enforce this by giving them the ability to confiscate and destroy e-cigarettes.  

Pulsipher shared that the bill also wanted to target the reasons why teens began vaping. 

“What we would really like them to do is to not start to begin with. The best way to stop is to prevent them from not starting,” Pulsipher said. 

In order to do this, each school will create a “positive behaviors program.” The hopes of this program would be in order to target the root causes of vaping. Every school would receive a stipend of $3,000. Overall, the programs included in the bill will cost Utah about $5 million a year. 

The costs HB58 creates will be covered by another bill that passed during the session. SB37 would increase the taxes on vaping products. 

Legislators recognized the implications of teen vaping, but decided against some of the bills that would have created more restrictions. One would have restricted anyone under the age of 21 from entering a vape shop. Legislators also shot down a bill that would limit the number of permits given out to retailers. 

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