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Texas Tobacco 21: a new law in Texas

July 16, 2019

More than automobile crashes, gun violence and opiate overdoses combined, tobacco is the leading cause of preventable deaths in the U.S. and kills over 480,000 people each year. While cigarette use has decreased over the last few years, e-cigarette use, particularly by youth, is rapidly increasing. E-cigarette use by youth has been called an epidemic by the FDA and is up 77% from last year.

On June 7, 2019, Governor Greg Abbott signed SB 21, or Tobacco 21, which raises the minimum legal age in Texas to purchase tobacco from 18 years to 21 years. Presently, 95% of smokers start before the age 21. Increasing the age to purchase tobacco will help reduce when people start smoking and access to tobacco among youth. A National Academy of Medicine report found that among 15-17-year-olds, there was an approximate 25% decrease in initiation rates of tobacco use with an increase in the tobacco sales age to 21 years.

The Paso del Norte Health Foundation is working in partnership with the YMCA of El Paso, the backbone organization for the Smoke Free Initiative, to offer several educational presentations for community members and retailers on the new Texas Tobacco 21 law. For more information or to schedule a presentation, please contact Bianca De Leon, Program Officer, at 915-218-2623.

About Texas Tobacco 21:

  • Texas Tobacco 21 is the new law that raises the minimum legal age in the state of Texas to purchase tobacco from 18 years to 21 years. Currently, there 17 states in the U.S. with Tobacco 21 laws.
  • The law goes into effect on September 1, 2019.
  • Those born before August 31, 2001 are exempt from the law. Also, a valid U.S. military identification can be used by persons under 21 years of age but older than 18 years of age to purchase tobacco.
  • Tobacco retailers must card anyone under 30 years. Currently the law requires ID for those 27 years old and under.
  • A sign notifying consumers that carding is enforced and that no sales can be made to those under 21 years must be posted by all tobacco retailers.
  • A violation by someone purchasing, attempting to purchase, or knowingly providing cigarettes, e-cigarettes, or tobacco products is punishable by:
    • a fine not to exceed $100 and/or
    • a court ordered tobacco awareness class and/or
    • community service hours
  • All state law enforcement officers can enforce the state law. The El Paso County Sheriff’s Department is responsible for compliance checks on tobacco retailers.
  • Retailer penalty for sale to those under 21 is on the clerk and stays the same – up to $500.
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