Utah Clutches Pearls Over “Public Health Hazard” Of Pornography

With Governor Gary Herbert's signature, Utah became the first state in the country to declare porn a "health hazard"

Image: Tara Jacoby
Apr 19, 2016 at 4:12 PM ET

Porn is as bad for your health as smoking. At least that’s what lawmakers in Utah want you to think. Governor Gary Herbert signed a resolution on Tuesday that declared pornography a “public health hazard” with addictive qualities that one state legislator compared to cigarettes.

Pornography, the resolution states, “equates violence toward women and children with sex and pain with pleasure, which increases the demand for sex trafficking, prostitution, child sexual abuse images, and child pornography.”


The resolution doesn’t criminalize porn—nobody will be getting arrested for logging in to PornHub. In fact, the resolution is “non-binding,” said Sen. Todd Weiler, who sponsored the bill. “We’re not spending money and we’re not banning anything,” he added. The resolution simply encourages “education, prevention, research, and policy change at the community and societal level in order to address the pornography epidemic that is harming the people of our state and nation,” it concludes.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention did not immediately reply to Vocativ’s request for comment on whether it considered porn to be the national epidemic that Utah does. Health experts seem to struggle with a consensus on the effects of watching porn. Researchers from UCLA released a study last year that suggests porn addictions are not real. The findings were notable because “it shows a reversal of a part of the brain response that has been consistently documented in other substance addictions and gambling disorder,” according to one of the researchers. Another study from the University of Cambridge concluded that sex addiction looks much like drug addiction in the brain, but cautioned that this “does not mean that pornography itself is addictive.”

The resolution is getting praise from groups like the Utah Coalition Against Pornography, members of which attended the signing of the resolution on Tuesday. On the group’s Facebook page, people from across the country have posted comments mocking the legislation and the group for focusing their time and resources to a symbolic measure declaring pornography a public health problem.

“So many problems in the world—why are money and resources being wasted on this? And the irony of it happening in Utah where polygamy is still a thing,” a Pennsylvania man posted on the group’s Facebook page.