By Terri Jo Neff |
A bill to increase the age for when Arizonans can legally smoke, vape, and use other non-medical nicotine products was stubbed out in the Senate on Monday, although it could be revived before the legislative session is over.
House Bill 2505 has been amended in an attempt to raise the legal age from 18 to 21 to buy, possess, or use a wide range of tobacco, vaping, or alternative nicotine products. Among its provisions is language to change the definition of retail tobacco vendors and expand the definitions of which tobacco, vaping, or alternative nicotine products fall under Arizona’s criminal code.
HB2505 also makes it easier for prosecutors to convict a person of any age of a petty offense for selling or giving such products to someone under 21. There would be no defense allowed for unknowingly violating one of the provisions, nor can a person argue that they were shown a seemingly legit identification card.
The American Heart Association – Arizona Chapter opposed HB2505, arguing the legislation “creates loopholes for the tobacco industry” while penalizing youth instead of protecting them. The legislation split the Republican Senate caucus leading to a 13-14 loss, with 3 Democrats not present to vote.
Among the 12 Republicans joining Minority Leader Rebecca Rios (D-LD27) in voting aye were Sens. Wendy Rogers, Nancy Barto, and David Livingston. The other 4 Republicans -Sens. Paul Boyer, Rick Gray, Michelle Ugenti-Rita, and Kelly Townsend- voted no.
Townsend and Ugenti-Rita rejected the bill, calling it government overreach.
Boyer had previously expressed opposition to the bill put forth as a strike-everything amendment by Sen. Vince Leach. He argued the bill would allow Big Tobacco to market to minors while allowing retailers to operate closer to schools.
Gray made a motion for reconsideration after HB2505 fell short of the needed votes. The motion passed, meaning Leach’s legislation could be revoted on in the future.