Committee approves Uresti bill to combat teen smoking
A bill by Sen. Carlos Uresti to raise the legal age to purchase tobacco products was passed unanimously Tuesday by the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.
Senate Bill 1049 will raise the tobacco purchasing age to 19 and make it illegal to sell or give a cigarette or tobacco product to someone under that age.
Uresti noted that a 2004 study showed that 22 percent of high school students and more than eight percent of middle school students were smokers, and that more than 90 percent of smokers began the habit before the age of 21.
"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."
Tobacco use has been linked to a number of health risks, including emphysema, strokes, heart disease and cancer. Uresti noted that treating people for tobacco-related illnesses generates more than $5.8 billion in health care costs each year.
Under current law, many high school students are old enough to legally buy cigarettes, which they sell or give to their friends. Studies show that 60 percent of teen smokers get their cigarettes from older friends and siblings.
"This bill will restrict the availability of cigarettes on high school campuses, making it much harder for older teens to get their friends started on the road to addiction," Uresti said.
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.