June 12, 2019
On June 7, Governor Abbot signed SB 21, or Tobacco 21, which raises the minimum legal age in Texas to purchase tobacco from 18 years to 21 years. Tobacco 21 also makes changes to how tobacco sales to minors are enforced. A person can be charged under the law if they sell, give, or knowingly purchase with the intention of providing a cigarette, e-cigarette, or other tobacco product to someone who is younger than 21 years old. A conviction calls for a fine of $100. The new law also requires retailers to train their clerks to prevent a violation of this law. Exemptions to the law include anyone born before 8/31/2001 and those with a valid military ID. The law goes into effect on September 1, 2019.
“With the rise of electronic cigarettes and vaping that is so prevalent amongst youth in our region, Tobacco 21 ensures that access to these harmful and highly addictive products will be reduced,” said Bianca De Leon, Program Officer of the Smoke Free Initiative. “Our outreach campaign aims to educate the public on the new law, while ultimately preventing young people from unhealthy long-term habits.”
Education and awareness of Tobacco 21 for community organizations, schools, youth, parents, and tobacco retailers will be led by the Paso del Norte Health Foundation and the YMCA of El Paso through the Smoke Free Initiative. The Clean Air Coalition and Paso del Norte Tobacco Control Network continue to serve as local content experts and advocates for eliminating tobacco in the Paso del Norte region.
The National Academy of Medicine has predicted that raising the legal tobacco purchase age to 21 will, over time, reduce the smoking rate by about 12 percent. Additional research has shown that 95% of smokers start before age 21 and three fourths of adult smokers try their first cigarette before their 18th birthday. It is estimated that over the course of their lifetime, over 2,600 lives of El Paso youth will be saved from smoking-related illnesses because of Tobacco 21.
Tobacco-related illness is still the leading cause of preventable death in the U.S.
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