New Law Targets Underage Smokers with Penalties

LAS VEGAS -- A new bill signed into law by Governor Brian Sandoval is targeting underage tobacco users in the Silver State.

But the law is only the first step, now it's up to the counties to decide whether to implement the penalties.

Currently, it's against the law for anyone under 18 years old to buy a tobacco product, but it's not against the law to use the product. It is that disconnect the new law intends to correct.

When school lets out, students say chances are likely, they will see a friend light up a cigarette.

"A lot of times after school we come up here and we're just chillin' and stuff and talking to each other," said Tyanna Dawson. "I tend to see kids smoking."

The number of teens under 18 using tobacco prompted Republican Senator James Settelmeyer of Minden to introduce SB 177.

Governor Brian Sandoval signed the bill into law but left the decision to penalize underage tobacco users up to the individual counties.

 "It affords the commission the flexibility to make a decision on it, so at some time in the foreseeable future, we will address the issue as a whole," Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak said.

If the ordinance passes in Clark County, minors would be fined $25 for the first offense, $50 for the second offense and $75 for the third.

Sisloak says once the issue is placed on the agenda, the Clark County School District and members of the community will be invited to share their opinions on the topic.

Some students say imposing penalties would force kids to hide their smoking.

"I don't think it's really going to change anything because everyone is just going to keep smoking. None of my friends are going to stop smoking," said a teenager who identified himself as Will.

"Smoking is not a good thing. It's really bad for you but if that is your choice to do, than that is your choice to do," Dawson said.

Sisolak said he expects a decision on penalizing underage smokers to be reached before the new school year starts.

 


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