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Thursday, October 22, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Eye On Boise

Bill to raise Idaho’s smoking age to 21 narrowly killed after lengthy hearing

After two hours of testimony both for and against – most of it for – the Senate State Affairs Committee has voted narrowly to kill legislation to raise Idaho’s smoking age from 18 to 21. Advocates of the bill said nearly 95 percent of smokers start before they turn 21, and raising the age would sharply reduce smoking; they included young people, decorated military veterans and health advocates. Representatives of the vaping and convenience store industry spoke against it, as did some who opposed the move on principle.

“I’m very torn on this,” said Sen. Marv Hagedorn, R-Meridian, who made the motion to kill the bill. Senate Minority Leader Michelle Stennett, D-Ketchum, who seconded Hagedorn’s motion, said, “I am on the fence on this, and I’ll tell you why. I walked into this understanding that we send our 18-year-olds to war, we let them vote, we criminalize them, and yet we are telling them not to smoke.” She said, “We’re sending a very mixed message here, but I think the way this bill is written needs a little more work. … It’s not to say that both sides don’t have a very valid argument.”

Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis, R-Idaho Falls, moved to send the bill to the Senate’s 14th Order for amendments to remove a section that would require those under 21 to be supervised by someone 21 or older if their job includes selling tobacco products. Others said they thought additional amendments were needed as well. But Davis’s motion failed on a 4-5 vote. Voting in favor were Sens. Davis, Hill, Winder and Lodge; voting against were Sens. Hagedorn, Lakey, Stennett, Buckner-Webb and Siddoway.

Hagedorn’s motion to hold the bill in committee, killing it, then passed 7-2, with just Hill and Davis dissenting. Sen. Todd Lakey, R-Nampa, said, “This is a product that I don’t condone, I don’t defend, I don’t support. But I do support the choice of an 18-year-old individual to choose to make bad decisions for themselves.”

Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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