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Eye On Boise

Bill to raise smoking age to 21 dies in committee with just 3 senators supporting it

The Senate State Affairs Committee has killed SB 1233, the bill to raise Idaho’s smoking age to 21, on a voice vote, with just three committee members dissenting; they were Sens. Brent Hill, Jeff Siddoway and Cherie Buckner-Webb. Sen. Patti Anne Lodge, R-Huston, missed the vote. Sen. Marv Hagedorn, R-Meridian, moved to hold the bill in committee, killing it; Sen. Michelle Stennett, D-Ketchum, seconded the motion.

Sen. Steve Vick, R-Dalton Gardens, said people are allowed to make other life-altering choices at 18, including to marry. “If it was as simple as passing a law to fix these problems, we’d probably have a lot more laws and a lot fewer problems,” Vick said. “Unfortunately my experience has shown that it just doesn’t work that way. ... It does interfere with the ability of what we consider legal adults to make decisions.”

Hagedorn said he started smoking at age 14, because it was accepted at the time among his peers. He quit 17 years ago when the only way he could smoke was in a bathroom in Washington, D.C. with 20 other sailors. “It was just too hard to smoke anymore,” he said, “and we all stunk.” Hagedorn said if other students at his high school had told him he stunk from smoking, he might have quit – but they didn’t. Hagedorn urged teens to tell their peers not to smoke.

“Our children in high school need to educate each other – peer pressure,” he said. “It was against the law for me to smoke, but I didn’t really care because my friends accepted it. When you’re in high school, laws don’t mean that much. It’s peer pressure, that’s a big deal.”

Sen. Jeff Siddoway, R-Terreton, shared a story about a dear friend who died after years of smoking. He said addiction takes away people’s freedom, and said he supports the bill.

Hagedorn said, “Our nation, unfortunately, is addicted to the money from tobacco products, and until we come to grips with that as a nation … people are still going to be addicted to nicotine. … But our nation has also decided that 18 is the year that our children become adults … to make all the choices and accept the responsibilities, and be accountable for those choices.”

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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