Preliminary passage of Senate Bill 21 on Tuesday by the Texas House of Representatives has put Texas on the path to becoming the 16th state in the U.S. to stop the sale of cigarettes, e-cigarettes and other tobacco products to Texans younger than 21, except for those in the military. The House will take a final vote on SB 21 on Wednesday. Raising the minimum legal tobacco sale age from 18 to 21 is strongly advocated by the Texas 21 coalition, representing 101 organizations.
The bill was carried by Sen. Joan Huffman (R-Houston) and Rep. John Zerwas, MD, (R-Richmond). In addition, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has made raising the tobacco age one of his legislative priorities. Amendments added to SB 21 on the House floor will send the bill back to the Senate for expected final approval before it is sent to Gov. Greg Abbott for consideration to be signed into law.
When the Texas Legislature convened in January, six states had raised the minimum tobacco sale age to 21. That total has since risen; 15 states now have approved tobacco 21 bills (two of these states’ bills await signature into law), along with at least 450 cities and counties across the country, including San Antonio, Leon Valley and Kirby in Texas.
Members of the Texas 21 coalition praise Texas lawmakers for their passage of SB 21:
John Carlo, MD, chair of the Texas Public Health Coalition and a member of the Texas Medical Association Council on Legislation:
“Texas physicians commend the Texas House of Representatives for passing Senate Bill 21 and thank Representative John Zerwas, MD, and Senator Joan Huffman for leading the charge. We’ve known for decades how harmful tobacco and nicotine are for our youth and children and how teen smokers become the next generation of adults addicted to tobacco. We now urge Governor Greg Abbott to protect our Texas youth from nicotine addiction, lower the threat of smoking-related diseases and early death, and reduce healthcare costs for everyone in Texas.”
Shelby Massey, government relations director-Texas, American Heart Association:
“About 95 percent of smokers start before age 21. By stopping the sale of tobacco products, e-cigarettes and similar products to those younger than 21, the Texas Legislature has taken a major step to help Texas youth live healthier lives and avoid premature death caused by these products. Texas 21 applauds the Texas Legislature for passing Senate Bill 21 and thanks bill authors Representative John Zerwas and Senator Joan Huffman for commitment to protect young Texans from a lifetime of addiction.”
In Texas, 7.4 percent of high school students smoke and over 10 percent use e-cigarettes, while 10,400 kids become daily smokers every year. Nearly half a million (498,000) Texas children alive now will ultimately die prematurely from smoking if current trends continue.
In addition, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report released in February found a 78 percent increase in high school students using e-cigarettes in one year, raising the number of middle and high school tobacco users to almost 5 million and reversing past progress to reduce youth tobacco product use.
A Texas 21 poll found that more than two-thirds of Texas voters support raising the minimum legal tobacco sale age to 21.
For more information on the tobacco 21 issue – including numerous fact sheets – visit www.texas21.org.
The Texas 21 Coalition includes 101 organizations, including the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN), American Heart Association, American Lung Association, Texas Academy of Family Physicians, Texas Medical Association, Texas Pediatric Society and Texas Public Health Coalition. The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center is present as an educational resource only. More information can be found at www.texas21.org. Follow the Coalition on Facebook at /texastobacco21 and Twitter at @TexasTobacco21.
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