Bill to control smoking, drinking killed in House

Bill to control smoking, drinking killed in House by Andrea Skalland The House killed two bills Feb. 8 that dealt with teen smoking and underage drinking.

Rep. Richard Brown, R-Sioux Falls, introduced HB 1168 that would have given local governments control over use, distribution, marketing, promotion and sale of tobacco products.

Brown said the bill would do two things. It would address the problem of youth and smoking, and give communities the opportunity to deal with the problem in their area.

According to Brown, teenage smoking is at an all-time high in South Dakota. Thirty-five percent of the state�s high school students smoke or have smoked in the past. Those statistics are the third highest in the nation.

Brown said that the bill would restore the ability to citizens to make decisions that affect the quality of their community.

�Local citizens are smart enough and responsible enough to make decisions for their communities,� Brown said.

Rep. Jerry Apa, R-Lead, opposed the bill saying that passage of it would be like throwing up our hands and giving up. He said it would be too confusing for people to know what law is located where.

�If we have statutes at all levels of government, it will lead to chaos,� Apa said. �Kids get cigarettes from social sources and no law will stop that. We need more education.�

The bill was deferred to the 41st legislative day with a vote of 46-22.

HB 1199, which also failed to pass the committee, would have restricted underage children from being allowed to drink alcoholic beverages at places that were licensed to serve them.

Rep. Roger Hunt, R-Brandon, introduced the bill saying it was time to send a message that this kind of behavior is not appropriate.

According to Hunt, 45 percent of high school students have had five or more drinks in a row in the past 30 days.

Hunt said the current law allows for underage teenagers to have alcohol if their parents, guardian or a spouse who is of legal drinking age accompanies them. This bill will recognize that alcohol contributes to many problems around the state, Hunt said.

�If we believe that we should not condone drinking for young people, we need to do something about it,� Hunt said. �The image conveyed by underage drinking with parents is bad.�

The bill would allow underage drinking when accompanied by parent or spouse on premises without licenses to sell alcohol, Hunt said. Drinking in a private home or church would be sanctioned under the bill.

Apa argued that while the intention was good, it would be a bad law.

�The problem is how to teach children to drink alcohol responsibly,� Apa said.

Hunt said the main purpose of the bill was to send a message.

�We are not eliminating children from drinking with their parents, but we are sending the message that it is not appropriate in public,� Hunt said.

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