PROVIDENCE – The General Assembly this month approved legislation toughening penalties for underage smoking.
Under existing law, use of tobacco products by those under 18 carries a penalty of either 30 hours of community service or participation in a tobacco-treatment program. Under the legislation passed by lawmakers, both parts of the penalty would be mandatory.
“A treatment program may be seen as a punishment for violating the law, but I see it as a chance to help young people make better judgments about how they treat their bodies,” said bill sponsor Senate Majority Leader Dominick J. Ruggerio, D-Providence. “It is a chance for them to relearn, or perhaps learn for the first time, the hazardous effects of smoking.”
House Majority Whip J. Patrick O’Neill, D-Pawtucket, also sponsored the change.
“It makes a lot of sense to require treatment for kids who are caught smoking,” he said. “Trying to help them quit is an effort to … perhaps save them from a lifetime of health problems.”
The bill now moves to Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee for his approval. •