Legislative committee to consider district's teen smoking bill request

Cathleen Allison/Nevada Appeal Kyle Tsesmilles, 17, shares a cigarette with some friends at Mills Park on Tuesday afternoon. Sen. Mike McGinness, R-Fallon, has introduced a bill draft that would make it illegal for teens to possess tobacco products.

Cathleen Allison/Nevada Appeal Kyle Tsesmilles, 17, shares a cigarette with some friends at Mills Park on Tuesday afternoon. Sen. Mike McGinness, R-Fallon, has introduced a bill draft that would make it illegal for teens to possess tobacco products.

FALLON - It would be illegal for minors to possess tobacco products under a proposed bill to be considered by Nevada's Judiciary Committee.

Churchill County School District Superintendent Carolyn Ross urged the board of trustees to make comments in support of the proposal to the committee next week - the first week of the 2007 Nevada Legislature.

Sen. Mike McGinness, R-Fallon, introduced the bill draft request on behalf of the school board to address teen smoking.

Current Nevada law prohibits anyone under the age of 18 from buying tobacco but there is no state law against teens using or possessing those products.

If the bill becomes law, a minor caught smoking or in possession of cigarettes or chewing tobacco will be referred to the juvenile justice system.

For a first offense, the youth will be admonished to obey the law and could be referred for counseling about the dangers of tobacco. A juvenile court judge may also order the offender to perform community service and could suspend the teen's driver's license.

A driver's license suspension would be enough to make 17-year-old Kyle Tsesmilles quit.

But he doesn't see the law doing much good.

"It's stupid," he said after school Wednesday, lighting up at Mills Park across the street from Carson High School.

"I don't think it will pass. Kids will still keep smoking. I know what it does to my body, that it's not healthy, but you can't really stop after you've been smoking for so long."

Tsesmilles said his friends pressured him into smoking five years ago at age 12.

"It's an addictive way of living we chose to follow," he said. "It will just keep happening."

The proposed law does not apply to underage teens who are assisting police in a tobacco sting operation to determine if merchants are complying with the law that forbids selling tobacco to minors.

Senate Bill 14 was suggested last year as a way to prevent Fallon students from smoking and using chewing tobacco.

"Your request for this legislation is moving forward. Wheels may turn slowly but they do turn," Ross told trustees.

Ross said she received commitments from some other school districts a year or more ago to support Fallon's attempt to make it illegal for teens to smoke.

Carson City's School Board has not yet addressed the bill draft.

If legislators vote to make the bill a law, it would be added to current legislation that deals with children who need supervision. That law applies to children who are habitually truant, those who refuse to obey their parents and a child who runs away from home.

• Contact reporter Marlene Garcia at mgarcia@lahontanvalleynews.com.

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