A Senate committee endorsed legislation Wednesday that would escalate penalties for minors who use fake IDs to purchase tobacco products.
Supporters, including a group representing retailers, said SB 1086, sponsored by Sen. Michele Reagan, R-Scottsdale, would put penalties for youths on par with those for clerks caught selling tobacco to underage customers.
“Both share the culpability,” Reagan said.
SB 1086 would make it a misdemeanor rather than a petty offense for youths to use fake IDs to purchase tobacco. A conviction would carry a maximum fine of $500 and up to 30 days in jail.
Retail clerks caught selling tobacco to minors face fines up to $1,000.
The Senate Committee on Commerce and Energy endorsed the bill on a 6-1 vote, sending it to floor by way of the Rules Committee.
Sen. Olivia Cajero Bedford, D-Tucson, who cast the only vote against, didn’t immediately return a phone message Wednesday afternoon.
The committee amended the bill to drop a provision that would outlaw the manufacture and sale of so-called blunt wraps, cigar wrapping paper that often is used to roll marijuana cigarettes. The bill was held in committee last week after lobbyists for tobacco companies objected to that language.
Michelle Ahlmer, executive director of the Arizona Retailers Association, said enhancing the penalty for minors would “even the playing field” and deter youths from purchasing tobacco illegally. She noted that store clerks usually wind up being the ones punished.
“It is appropriate for the minor to receive an equal punishment,” Ahlmer said.
Lincoln Bown, a clerk on duty Wednesday at Tobacco Pipes and Plus in central Phoenix, said he didn’t think hiking penalties would keep minors from trying to buy tobacco but would like them to be held more accountable.
“Kids are going to be kids,” he said. “They’re going to do what they’re going to do.”
The American Lung Association of Arizona opposes the bill. Christian Stumpf, the group’s regional director of advocacy, said that punishment hasn’t been demonstrated as effective in reducing smoking among minors.
Steve Barclay, a lobbyist for the Cigar Association of America, said he was disappointed that the committee dropped the language on blunt wraps but otherwise supports the bill.
“The legislator didn’t feel comfortable doing a total ban,” he said. “We need to get the facts nailed down on this and regroup at the moment.”