Texas Raises Age To Buy Tobacco To 21

The Lone Star State joins multiple others that have raised the tobacco age from 18 to 21.

a young woman smoking a cigarette
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The Lone Star State joins multiple others that have raised the tobacco age from 18 to 21.

Texas has officially raised the minimum age to purchase tobacco products to 21, joining 16 other states in raising the age after decades of it being 18.

As Austin’s KXAN-TV reports, Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed into law Senate Bill 21, which officially raises the minimum legal age to purchase tobacco products to 21. The law, which includes cigarettes, loose tobacco, so-called “E-Cigarettes,” and all related tobacco products, goes into effect in September 2019. Active members of the military who are over the age of 18, but under the age of 21, will still be allowed to purchase tobacco.

Texas 21, the advocacy group that helped push the legislation through, says on its website that raising the minimum age to purchase tobacco to 21 will save the lives of Texas children. “In Texas, 10,400 kids become daily smokers every year. And one-third of them will die prematurely as a result,” says the group.

One of the reasons for the increased number of children, teenagers, and young adults getting addicted to tobacco products is the prevalence of so-called “E-cigarettes” — that is, devices that heat nicotine-based oil into a vapor, allowing the user to get their nicotine fix in a way that doesn’t require lighting a cigarette. What’s more, these nicotine oils are sometimes flavored, which some advocates claim make them even more attractive to children and teenagers.

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The bill made its way through the Texas legislature with little opposition, save for some back-and-forth over the language that allowed military personnel to still be able to purchase tobacco products at the age of 21. As The Texas Tribune reports, even the tobacco industry is on-board with legislative efforts to raise the minimum age to 21. However, some pundits note that the industry’s enthusiasm for such legislation has less to do with its concerns about young people smoking and more to do with the belief that these laws will replace other efforts at keeping tobacco out of the hands of kids that the tobacco industry may not like, such as banning flavored oils and raising taxes on tobacco products.

The past few years have seen states moving away from keeping their minimum age to purchase tobacco from 18 to 21, the same age as the legal alcohol age. As of this writing, Arkansas, California, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington have all raised the age to 21. Similarly, legislation has been introduced into both the House and the Senate to make 21 the federal standard, but as of this writing those efforts have gone nowhere.