Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clinton, sponsored House Bill 170, which would have banned any tobacco product from resembling candy in any way, shape or form.
But the House Business and Labor Committee voted 4-8 against the bill Friday in a committee room packed with anti-tobacco activists wearing buttons reading, “Three can kill.”
“I’ll see you next year,” Ray said after the vote.
Some of those who voted against the bill said tobacco products such as chewing tobacco, cigarettes and cigars are legal for those 19 and older to buy in Utah.
They also said adults should be able to choose if they want to buy flavored nicotine products.
Ray brought samples of nicotine products that looked like candy for committee members to see.
“Three of these (Camel) Orbs can kill a small child,” Ray said.
Currently, the candy-like forms of nicotine are not available in Utah, Ray said, “but they’re coming.”
He sponsored a similar bill last year, but it was killed in the Senate after tobacco lobbyists said tobacco companies would sue Utah.
Ray said the Utah Attorney General’s Office looked at federal regulations and Utah can ban any tobacco product it wants to. New York recently won a lawsuit filed by tobacco companies after it banned tobacco-type candy.
Bonneville High School Principal Art Hansen said it’s not just small children who could die or become seriously ill from ingesting nicotine products. Several years ago, a student was given a nicotine prescription patch by another student at school, which he put in his mouth, Hansen said.
Within minutes, the student was convulsing and paramedics were called, Hansen said.
Rep. Gage Froerer, R-Huntsville, said he struggles with the bill because “how far do we go when we ban products?”
Froerer and Ray worked together on a bill to ban spice and Ivory Wave that was signed into law earlier Friday. The products were being used in place of marijuana or cocaine.
Ray warned that the nicotine products will be sold not in smoke shops but in convenience stores and across the street from elementary schools.
“Who you have heard from mostly today are the paid lobbyists from the tobacco companies,” he said.
“We’ve never had the opportunity to ban tobacco because it has been around for so long. You have the opportunity today to make history.”
Rep. Francis Gibson, R-Mapleton, said adults should have the right to buy nicotine products.
“We have fruit wine coolers,” he said.
Gibson said he does not use nicotine or tobacco products but thinks the bill goes too far in regulating what adults can or cannot buy.
Christy Jones, with Weber-Morgan Health Department, said the products, no matter how well regulated they are, will end up in the hands of teenagers and even younger children.
“The teens will get it and will conceal it from their parents, law enforcement and teachers,” she said.
“They will pull out what looks like gums or mints and then share with their friends.”
By Loretta Park