CARSON CITY — A bill that would give police the ability to cite underage smokers passed 14-6 after a lively debate in the Senate on Wednesday.
Senate Bill 14, which now heads to the Assembly, prohibits minors from possessing tobacco products and allows police to issue citations, starting at $25 for a first offense.
Senate Minority Leader Dina Titus, D-Las Vegas, spoke in opposition to the measure, saying police have more pressing problems to deal with than issuing citations to minors for smoking.
“Even if it is treated as a traffic ticket somebody has to enforce it, some police officer has to make a stop,” she said.
The bill was introduced by Sen. Mike McGinness, R-Fallon, because of concerns that teenagers were congregating across from the Churchill County High School to smoke. Such smoking areas are common across the state.
McGinness said law enforcement has the discretion to deal with more pressing police issues if necessary.
“Now I’m sure if somebody is robbing a bank downtown they’re not going to be sitting out by the high school looking for smokers,” he said.
Sen Barbara Cegavske, R-Las Vegas, spoke in support of the bill, saying as a convenience store owner for 13 years, there was nothing clerks could do when adults came in and bought cigarettes for minors.
But Sen. Bob Coffin, D-Las Vegas, asked about enforcement, questioning whether police could pull over younger looking adults who are smoking to determine whether they are underage.
When told that drivers could be pulled over as a primary offense, Coffin said he would have to vote no on the bill.
A second offense under the measure would mean a $50 fine, a third would mean a $75 fine and a fourth would mean a $75 fine plus a requirement to attend a tobacco cessation and awareness program.
All of the no votes were from Democrats, including Titus, Coffin, Maggie Carlton and Steven Horsford, all D-Las Vegas; John Lee, D-North Las Vegas, and Bernice Mathews, D-Reno.2007