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Advocates talk about smoking-age bill in Utah

Pictures of kids with targets are placed in the rotunda of the Utah Capitol. Brooke Carlisle with the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network says focusing on age is like blaming the victim…when it big tobacco companies ought to be held accountable .

SALT LAKE CITY – Cedar Hills has passed a law raising the age to buy tobacco products to 21 years old, following the example of Lehi City. Now, the Utah Legislature is considering a statewide bill on the issue.

Some advocates say it’s the wrong approach.

Advocates filled the capitol rotunda on Thursday to talk about a bill that would raise the age to 21 in Utah to buy tobacco products.

Pictures of kids with targets are placed in the rotunda of the Utah Capitol. Brooke Carlisle with the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network says focusing on age is like blaming the victim. (KSL Newsradio / Mary Richards)

Brooke Carlisle with the Cancer Action Network says it’s the wrong solution.

Carlisle says we shouldn’t punish kids for buying them, we should punish stores for selling them. Retailers need to be held accountable for selling to minors, she says.

“Making sure convenience stores and tobacco specialty shops are not selling to kids. Really doing compliance checks on the local level from the health department, and forcing the penalties on retailers.”

And she says big tobacco companies need to be held accountable for marketing to kids.

“The tobacco industry spends a million dollars an hour on marketing. So to punish the kids who have been subject to that marketing, is not the best solution.”

Retailers, she says, need stronger rules.

“We think, if someone is punished, it’s a deterrent. So if a kid knows they’ll be fined, they won’t do it. But I don’t think that resonates when you are 15. That’s not how you think.”

This group also says HB 324 should make the age change on one specific day, instead of a phased in approach. The group plans to meet with Representative Steve Eliason over his bill on Friday.