Senate votes to make teen smoking illegal

Over objections by six Democrats, the Nevada Senate voted Wednesday to criminalize possession and use of cigarettes by those under age 18.

Sen. Mike McGinness, R-Fallon, said he sponsored SB14 at the request of Churchill County School District, which wanted to get rid of the smokers corner across from the high school in Fallon.

But Minority Leader Dina Titus, D-Las Vegas, questioned whether it makes sense to have police chasing teen smokers instead of more serious criminals.

McGinness said that's why the bill calls for what amounts to a traffic ticket for teens caught with tobacco. He said the first offense would be a $25 fine, the second $50 and the third $75. Further offenses would land the teen in an anti-smoking program.

Sen. Mark Amodei, R-Carson City, said because it's a ticket, county and city officials say it won't overload the courts with more juvenile cases and cost counties money.

Sen. Bob Coffin, D-Las Vegas, asked whether police could use smoking as an excuse to pull over younger drivers. When Amodei answered yes, Coffin responded: "That statement alone forces me to vote against it."

He and other lawmakers have expressed concerns in the past about bills they feel give police "open ended probable cause" to stop any driver they want to question.

The final vote on SB14 was 14-6 with Sen. Terry Care, D-Las Vegas, absent. The measure goes to the Assembly for review.


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