'Evil, degrading, addictive, harmful': Utah officially deems porn a public health crisis - Washington Post



Utah Gov. Gary Herbert claps during the ceremonial signing Tuesday. (Rick Bowmer/AP)

Its official: Pornography is a public health crisis. At least in Utah.

The state proclaimed as much Tuesday after Gov. Gary Herbert (R) signed off on a resolution that deemspornography a public health hazard thatcan result in wide-rangingharm to individuals and society at large.

We hope that people hear and heed this voice of warning, Herbert said at a signing ceremony. For our citizens know that there are real health risks that are involved and associated with viewing pornography.

At a press conference on April 19, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert explains why he plans to sign a resolution declaring pornography a public health crisis. (Youtube/Governor Herbert)

The resolution, passed through the state legislature, recognizesaneed for education, research, prevention and changes to policy to address the issue.

In his speech Tuesday, Herbert likened pornography to drugs and alcohol in its capacity to tempt our youth.

[Is porn immoral? That doesnt matter: Its a public health crisis.]

We also want our young people to know that theres a particularlypsychological and physiological detriment that comes from addiction to pornography, he said.

Todd Weiler, the resolutions chief Senate sponsor, acknowledged theridicule he receivedwhen he first unveiled the measure, which largely focuses on pornographys impact on children.

When my resolution language went public last January, I was mocked and scorned on the media, said Weiler, a Republican. News of the resolution made it as far asVietnam, Croatia, Australia and England, he said.The world is watching, but its time; its time that we stand up and take back our communities.

The resolution is non-binding andrequires no public spending, so its impact rests on community action, Weiler said. Parents must make it safe for children to speak with them about pornography, he said. Communities must mobilize to limit its access, for example, in places that offer free wireless internet access.

If a library or a McDonalds or anyone else was giving out cigarettes to our children, we would be picketing them, Weiler said. And, yet, our children are accessing pornography on their tablets on these sites and we seem to be OK with that.

Weiler called on lawmakers in other states and at the federal level to pass similar legislation.

And he praised British Prime MinisterDavidCamerons move torequirefamily-friendly filters installed by default for most new internet subscribers, requiring users to actively request access to include pornographic materials.

[Britains harsh crackdown on Internet porn prompts free-speech debate]

This is a $7 billion industry, Weiler said. Help us protect children from your evil, degrading, addictive, harmful substances.If adults want to do that, thats their choice,but were talking about developing adolescent minds of our nations future.

Some experts take issue with the suggestion that pornography is addictive like drugs or alcohol.

Studies published in 2013and2015called into question the comparison, suggesting that the brains of so-called porn addicts do not, in fact, respond to pornography in the same way the brains of other addicts respond to their substance of choice.

In an e-mail, a spokesman for a porn industry trade group called the measure an old-fashioned morals bill.

What we should be concerned about is not adult entertainment or sexuality, but with bills like this that traffic in shame and censorship, said Mike Stabile, the Free Speech Coalitions communications director. We should live in a society where sexuality is spoken about openly, and discussed in nuanced and educated ways, and not stigmatized. We all should work together to prevent non-adults from accessing adult material.

In addition to the resolution, Herbert also signed into law a related billthat sets new reporting standards for computer technicians who find child pornography in the course of their work.

Under that measure, failure to do so could result in a penalty.

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