Righter: Tobacco Products Under 21 bill 'is a step backward'
Sen. Dale Righter (R-Mattoon) opposed a bill that decriminalizes possession of tobacco for individuals under the age of 21.
House Bill 345 changes the legal age of purchasing tobacco products to 21, but it removes criminalization provisions for those in possession who are underage.
"I want to talk about why we remove any penalties for possession of tobacco products under 21," Righter asked. "Why are you striking that?"
Sen. Julie Morrison (D-Deerfield), the sponsor of the bill, said the emphasis will be put on the people who are selling the product and not children who make mistakes being in possession of it.
"If a police officer were to see a 14- or 15-year-old girl smoking a cigarette across from school grounds, because she’s only possessing it, the police officer has no authority to take it from her or call parents?"
Righter said his suggestion is to not remove criminalization.
"This bill is a step backward," Righter said. "The 14- or 15-year-old who is smoking, a police officer has the authority to take cigarettes from her and issue a citation. Once in a while introduction to court is a good thing. The authority is gone with this bill. Mom and dad back home know nothing (with this bill)."
Righter said the criminalization is one way to correct minors' errant ways.
"We are removing tools from parents and others have to keep them from smoking which is the point of the bill in the first place," Righter said. "Move this out of the record and leave in place accountability provisions. It would be a better bill."
The bill passed the Senate with 39 yes votes and 17 no votes.