Senate passes Uresti's bill to combat teen smoking
Eighteen-year-olds would no longer be able to buy or possess cigarettes in Texas under a bill passed by the Texas Senate on Wednesday.
Sen. Carlos Uresti said that raising the legal age for purchasing tobacco products to 19 will limit the availability of cigarettes on high school campuses and prevent teens from beginning a lifetime of tobacco addiction.
"We're doing this so we can save lives," Uresti said, "so we can save young people from ever starting to smoke."
Studies have found that up to 90 percent of adult smokers began the habit when they were teens. Uresti cited two other statistics: 3,500 teenagers alive today will die prematurely from tobacco-related diseases, and treating people for those illnesses costs almost $6 billion a year.
"Most adult smokers picked up this dangerous habit in their teens," Uresti said. "Raising the tobacco purchasing age will discourage young people from starting an addiction that could ruin their health and take their lives."
While the state is expected to collect $12.5 million less in tobacco taxes over the biennium because of Senate Bill 1049, Uresti said the measure will save billions of dollars in health care costs in the future.
Senate Health and Human Services Chairman Jane Nelson agreed.
"I think it's the best money the state could ever lose," Nelson said. "This is a good investment, and I applaud this bill."
Uresti's bill, sent to the House on a vote of 25-5, would make it illegal to possess, sell or give cigarettes or tobacco products to someone under age 19. A violation would be a Class C misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $500.
Carlos Uresti is the senator from State Senate District 19 representing over 750,000 residents throughout a 23 county area stretching along the U.S.-Mexico border, from San Antonio to El Paso County, including all or part of the following: Bandera, Bexar, Brewster, Culberson, Crockett, El Paso, Edwards, Hudspeth, Jeff Davis, Kinney, Loving, Maverick, Medina, Pecos, Presidio, Real, Reeves, Sutton, Terrell, Uvalde, Val Verde, Ward, and Winkler counties. Covering 55,000 square miles, the district contains 62 school districts and spans two time zones.