The legal age to purchase cigarettes and other tobacco products in Texas will increase, effective Sept. 1.
Gov. Greg Abbott on Friday signed Senate Bill 21 into law, which prohibits the sale of cigarettes, e-cigarettes and other tobacco products to those under 21 years of age.
SB 21 was authored by state Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston.
“Each day, more than 300 kids under the age of 18 become regular, daily smokers and almost one-third will eventually die from smoking,” Huffman said. “National data shows that about 95 percent of adult smokers begin smoking before they turn 21, and a substantial number of smokers start even younger.”
Readers shared their thoughts on the matter on the Times-Review Facebook page.
Jaay Tee called it a win-lose situation.
“You win by making it harder for young adults to become addicted at a young age,” he said. “But, you lose revenue at a local and state level, both from sales tax and excise tax.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of middle and high school tobacco users increased by 36 percent between 2017 and 2018, from a surge in e-cigarette use.
“The skyrocketing growth of young people’s e-cigarette use over the past year threatens to erase progress made in reducing youth tobacco use,” CDC Director Robert R. Redfield said. “It’s putting a new generation at risk for nicotine addiction.”
Under the current law, Huffman said high school students who are 18 years old are able to purchase tobacco products.
“This means that students that are of-age are under intense pressure to purchase cigarettes, e-cigarettes and tobacco products for their younger peers,” she said. “Raising the minimum legal age to 21 for this offense would help keep cigarettes, e-cigarettes and tobacco products out of Texas public schools by creating more ‘social distance’ between younger high school students and of-age purchasers. By raising the age, SB 21 seeks to reduce early addiction to tobacco and nicotine products.”
AJ Green said he was all for the new law.
“I might have not started if it had been this way when I was out of high school,” he said. “I really just wish they would just make it illegal all together.”
For decades, the minimum age to buy tobacco products was 18 except in Alabama, Alaska and Utah, where it was 19.
Hawaii became the first state to increase its minimum tobacco sales age to 21 with a bill passed in 2015. Since then, 15 other states — including Texas — have increased their minimum tobacco sales age to 21.
According to SB 21, anyone found in violation of the law could face a class C misdemeanor and a fine of up to $500.
Kristi Siggers said all the new law does is make more crime.
“They’re still going to get them,” she said. “Just like how high-schoolers still get cigs and alcohol.”
The new law does allow those who are 18-20 and serving in the military to legally purchase cigarettes, e-cigarettes and other tobacco products.