Texas Legislators Pushing To Raise Age To Purchase Cigarettes

Chris Fox
March 19, 2019 - 11:21 am

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AUSTIN (1080 KRLD) - Raising the age to purchase cigarettes and e-cigarettes to 21 has strong support at the State Capitol.

Lt. Governor Dan Patrick has made raising the smoking age to 21 one of his top 30 legislative priorities. A coalition of 75 public health groups have also endorsed the legislation.

One of those groups is the prestigious MD Anderson Cancer Center. Dr. Ernest Hawk testified Monday before the Senate State Affairs Committee in favor of the legislation. “It would reduce smoking rates by an estimated 12-percent and smoking-related deaths by 10-percent.” 

State Senator Joan Huffman authored the bill that’s been dubbed Tobacco 21. When she rolled out the bill on Monday she spoke of the strong statistical evidence behind it. “Every day more than 300 children become regular daily smokers. National data shows that about 95-percent of adult smokers begin smoking before they turn 21.” The healthcare problems also extend to those e-cigarette users as well said Huffman. “It has become so prevalent that both the United States Food and Drug Administration and the United States Surgeon General have declared teenage e-cigarette consumption an epidemic.”

Multiple witnesses signed up to testify against the bill. Many made the argument that the bill was an example of government overreach.

Terry Harper was one who spoke against the bill saying, “Becoming the ‘nanny state’ or the all-watching village is not the direction liberty-loving Texans want to go.”

Vape store owner Jason Tamplin argued that raising the age to 19 would achieve the same goal of limiting the exposure of tobacco from high school students. He also told lawmakers raising the purchase age doesn’t go far enough. “If we were to remove in the state of Texas a nicotine level, say 29 and below, anything above cannot be sold here. If we took those products the kids are sneaking into school, that schools are confiscating from the children, and got those out of the State of Texas, I really believe that that would move the needle, not so much simply changing something to 21.”

The Senate State Affairs Committee has yet to vote on the bill.

A State House equivalent bill, authored by State Representative John Zerwas is awaiting a vote by the House Public Health Committee.