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Utah first state to declare porn a public health crisis

Utah has become the first US state to declare pornography a public health crisis. The move, backed by Republicans and supported by the Mormon church, could open the door for other US states to follow suit.

Utah Republican Gov. Gary Herbert

Utah Republican Gov. Gary Herbert

Co-written by the Utah Coalition Against Pornography, the resolution calls for people in Utah to cooperate in curtailing the consumption of pornographic material. A law was also enacted Tuesday requiring computer technicians to report to law enforcement any child pornography found while working on a machine.

The Utah state legislature approved a text earlier this year, calling for "the need for education, prevention, research and policy change at the community and societal level in order to address the pornography epidemic that is harming the citizens of Utah and the nation."

"Pornography is a public health crisis. The problem is rampant, yet it thrives in secrecy and silence," said Gary Herbert, the Republican governor of predominantly Mormon Utah, after signing the resolution. "Today's bills will start an open discussion, bringing its very real dangers to light," he said in a statement.

"We realize this is a bold assertion, and there are some out there who will disagree with us. We're here to say it is, in fact, the full-fledged truth," Herbert said during a signing ceremony.

Republican state Senator Todd Weiler, who sponsored the bill, said: "We're not spending money and we're not banning anything."

Naughty Utah

Harvard Business School professor Benjamin Edelman released a study in 2009 that identified Utah as the US state with the highest rate of people with online adult entertainment subscriptions.

Some Utah groups, including the website FairMormon.org, have disputed its results and questioned its methodology.

Porn industry backlash

The Free Speech Coalition, a trade association for the adult entertainment industry, lashed out at the move. A major adult entertainment trade group dismissed the move as "noxious" and an "old-fashioned morals bill."

"The claims and the implied prescriptions harken to the dark days before adult film was legal, and when sex and sexuality were only discussed behind closed doors, if at all," it said.

jbh/jil (AFP, Reuters)

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