Teen smoking bill wins committee support

The bill to make teen smoking illegal in Nevada cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday after the addition of amendments to reduce concerns it would overload the juvenile justice system.

SB14, introduced by Sen. Mike McGinness, R-Fallon, originally sent smokers under age 18 to the juvenile justice system, which county officials said could greatly increase their workload.

The amendments changed the bill to make underage smoking or possession of tobacco a misdemeanor fine. The fines would be $25 for a first offense, $50 for the second and $75 the third time.

For those caught a fourth time, McGinness said, they would be sentenced to a mandatory smoking cessation program as well as fines. Those who complete the program could have the citation dismissed. If not, they would go to court for the violation.

"We were trying to keep this as simple as possible," McGinness said.

But he said those wishing to make changes to the bill apparently weren't finished even though the measure was on the agenda for a committee vote Thursday. He said the Washoe Health District's latest amendment arrived just 10 minutes before the committee convened.

"I have some concerns we are trying to love this bill to death," he said, adding that the original purpose was simply to eliminate the smokers' corner across from the high school in Fallon.

Opponents argued the measure gives too much power to police who could abuse it as a tool to stop any young person without probable cause.

"I think the proposed amendments accomplish what we're trying to do," McGinness said.

Committee members voted to amend and recommend passage of SB14. Sen. Steve Horsford, D-Las Vegas, voted no on the motion.

The bill goes to the Senate floor for a vote.

• Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at gdornan@nevadaappeal.com or 687-8750.


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