Texas could increase the legal smoking age to 21 following a vote Tuesday by state House representatives.
The Texas Senate approved the bill more than a month ago. If the chambers reconcile the different versions and Gov. Greg Abbott signs the legislation into law, Texas would be the 14th state to raise the legal smoking age to 21, according to the Texas Tribune.
In recent years, public health advocates across the country have been pressuring state lawmakers to increase the legal age for purchasing tobacco products to 21 in what has been dubbed the “Tobacco 21” movement. They argue that young people are uniquely susceptible to tobacco’s addictive effects. They also say that many high school students are able to start smoking because they can easily obtain cigarettes from 18-year-olds. The law would presumably make access for minors more difficult. A 16-year-old high school sophomore might have no trouble getting cigarettes from an 18-year-old senior, but would be less likely to know a 21-year-old who can provide them, advocates say.
The Texas bill also bans the sale of e-cigarettes and all other tobacco products to those under age 21.
“It’s just a very logical, common sense type of action, in our opinion,” Ernest Hawk, M.D., MPH, vice president and division head for Cancer Prevention and Population Sciences at The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, told TMC Pulse in 2017. “It would advance public health and save money. There’s little argument against it, in our opinion.”
Hawk said the biggest impact of increasing the smoking age to 21 would be on youngsters 15 to 17. Data shows that more than 90 percent of smokers in those age groups get their cigarettes from their slightly older peers.
“It puts more distance between people who are true minors,” Hawk said.
Polling from the Texas Medical Center Health Policy Institute shows widespread support for the legislation. In 2018, the think tank surveyed 1,000 Texans and found that 83 percent supported banning the sale of all tobacco products to people under the age of 21. It also found that 57 percent of respondents supported banning the sale of tobacco products altogether.
An elevated age of purchase has won the endorsement of dozens of entities, from the American Heart Association to the Institute of Medicine. In 2016, a New England Journal of Medicine op-ed called the proposal “an idea whose time has come.” Just two days ago, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan signed similar legislation into law. Last week, Walmart announced it would raise the age for purchasing tobacco products in its stores to 21. And last month, federal lawmakers introduced bipartisan legislation in the U.S. House and Senate that would raise the nation’s legal age for purchasing tobacco products to 21.
“Finding a place where there’s really potential to find common ground, in the interest of health, is pretty exciting to me,” Stephanie Morain, M.D., MPH, assistant professor at Baylor College of Medicine’s Center for Medical Ethics & Health Policy, said in a previous TMC Pulse interview.
A deep dive of the polling data reveals strong support for Tobacco 21 not only across political parties but across racial, educational and income groups.
“Policymakers interested in enacting Tobacco 21 laws should be heartened by strong public support at the state level, regardless of demographic, health status or political characteristics,” wrote Morain along with Jean Raphael, M.D., MPH, associate professor of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine and director of the Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Child Health Policy and Advocacy and Arthur Garson, M.D., MPH, director of the Texas Medical Center Health Policy Institute, in a study published by Nicotine & Tobacco Research.
“Policymakers from both sides of the political aisle can support these laws, without fear of voter backlash,” the authors concluded.
Page County VA receives 2019 Ford Flex for Veteran transportation https://t.co/Uje88HYVi8 via @KMABroadcasting
David Jaffray, Ph.D., from @UHN to join MD Anderson as Chief Technology and Digital Officer late this summer: https://t.co/2y4TNnS1Oj. #endcancer
“As a parent, I strive to do what I can to protect my children and their friends from ever facing a cancer diagnosis,” says former convenience store owner Sam Susser.Here’s why he’s proud to see Texas raise the age for tobacco sale to 21: https://t.co/FVGuiVJXAH #endcancer
Event gives Veterans 'an opportunity' to teach https://t.co/rLFnvZxmF7 via @AmericanLegion
After more than 47 years of extraordinary service to UTHealth, George M. Stancel, PhD, has announced his retirement. #ThankYouDrStancel for your contributions, your impact, and your commitment to UTHealth. https://t.co/zz7biEVQaC #ManyFacesOfUTHealth https://t.co/m5IwXP2WmZ
The numbers of Americans with health consequences from obesity continues to grow. See how we as a medical school are teaching our students to help prevent and treat this disease. https://t.co/Gl4Um007LB #obesity
@MrJeremyJackson @PasadenaHigh @AthleticsPISD @CathySupak Thanks for sharing
A phase III trial led by our @DQBMD found combining busulfan with melphalan may be effective as conditioning newly diagnosed #multiplemyeloma patients receiving an autologous #stemcelltransplant: https://t.co/pliwgCBYxb @CancerNetwrk #MMSM #endcancer
Today we honor Army Veteran Jason Swindle in remembrance of his service and sacrifice for our country https://t.co/EgIX7LRw5X #VeteranOfTheDay #CarryTheLoad #NoVeteranEverDies
Amar Yousif, MBA, named new VP of Information Technology, Chief Information Officer at @UTHealth: https://t.co/dtNUDXzoei https://t.co/wfbuWKLW3l
Several nurses at @TexasChildrens recently received their Doctor of Nursing Practice. Join us in congratulating them on this incredible achievement! To learn more, visit: https://t.co/2kSDVJ834B #texaschildrens
Can #vitamins really make your skin look better? https://t.co/T83LNeh08H
RT @Rice_BIOE: Rice bioengineer Jeff Tabor (@LabTabor) reflects on accessing nature's treasure trove of biosensors in a new "Nature" blog p…
Dr. Julie Kaplow, chief of psychology and director of the Trauma and Grief Center at Texas Children's Hospital, discusses the importance of mental health support in public schools:https://t.co/cF2CZMfBdF #texaschildrens
Dr. Julie Kaplow, chief of psychology and director of the Trauma and Grief Center at Texas Children's Hospital, shares more about survivor's trauma: https://t.co/31J9jWZHtM