Senate bill would fine teens for smoking

If it’s against the law for Nevada youth to buy cigarettes, it should also be a crime for them to use it, a state senator said Thursday in presenting a bill to make it illegal for anyone under 18 to use tobacco.Sen. James Settelmeyer, R-Minden, said gatherings of teens on “smokers’ corners” near school campuses are testament to the fact that just banning the purchase of tobacco isn’t enough to deter the habit. And law enforcement is powerless to cite underage tobacco users because it isn’t against the law.He told the committee of a conversation he had with a police officer who had smoke blown in his face by a 14-year-old in a kind of symbolic dare. Settelmeyer has proposed to change that with SB177, heard Thursday by the Senate Judiciary Committee.The goal, he said, is to get children to kick the habit before they become adults.Under the bill, underage smokers could be cited by officers for using tobacco. A first offense would carry a $25 fine. A second would cost $50 and a third $75. Community service would be an option if they are unable to pay.Children would not be arrested but given a “ticket” to appear juvenile court.After a third offense, a juvenile master could order the offender to attend tobacco awareness and cessation program. If the teen offender completes it successfully, record of the offenses would sealed by the court.The bill was supported by the Nevada State Medical Association and the city of North Las Vegas but ran into opposition from juvenile officers who feared it could overload the juvenile justice system. Juvenile officers also worried about punishing kids already addicted to nicotine and who lack family support at home.Sen. Greg Brower, R-Reno, urged critics to work with backers of the bill to make it work.“I think, frankly ... we’re coddling bad behavior amongst kids and we’re not doing enough to be grownups,” Brower said. “Let’s not look for ways this can’t work; let’s look for ways it can work.”No action was taken on the bill.


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