Texas May Raise Smoking Age to 21
A bipartisan effort to raise the minimum age to purchase tobacco from 18 to 21 could make Texas the third state in the nation to raise the smoking age above 19.
The Dallas Morning News reported Monday that four Texas lawmakers - two Republican, two Democrat - are championing a bill in the Texas House. Carlos Uresti, a Democrat from San Antonio, has tried to pass similar legislation five times over the past decade, and now has the support of fellow Democrat Donna Howard of Austin and, most importantly, Republicans Joan Huffman of Houston and John Zerwas of Richmand.
Zerwas is a physician, and his support of the measure could provide serious momentum.
“We have as good a chance as we’ve ever had,” Uresti told the Dallas Morning News. “I’m just glad. I welcome all the support we can get.”
The bill's supporters say the legislation would save lives and money by drastically reducing the number of smokers, in turn reducing the amount of money spent treating adults for tobacco-related illnesses and the number of babies born with diseases and disorders linked to tobacco use during pregnancy.
Texas' Department of State Health Services estimates the State could save over $5.5 billion in healthcare costs over the next quarter century if such legislation were passed. They also estimated an 11.6% reduction in preterm births over 20 years.
Critics argue that the State could lose around $100 million in tax revenue over five years, and that raising the tobacco purchasing age infringes upon individual liberties.
“There’s obviously some people who are going to see this as an infringement on rights and stuff, and those voices need to be heard,” Zerwas told the Dallas Morning News. “And yeah, that’s a loss of potential revenue, but one we can probably make up somewhere else."
California and Hawaii have raised the minimum tobacco purchase age in recent years, as have several cities across the U.S. Other states are reportedly considering similar measures.
According to the United Health Foundation, smoking rates are down in Texas and across the nation.