PRESS RELEASE from the office of Senator Carlos Uresti

Date: April 19, 2007
CONTACT:Ryan Sullivan

Legislation will help keep tobacco out of high schools

AUSTIN, TX -- Senator Carlos Uresti continued nearly a decade of legislative focus on public health and youth protection with today's passage of Senate Bill 448, raising the legal age to purchase tobacco products to age 19.

"Studies from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate that sixty percent of teen smokers get their cigarettes from older friends and siblings. There are many high school students who are legally able to purchase tobacco products, and these students are in a position to provide tobacco products to their underage peers in school. By raising the tobacco purchasing age to 19, we are removing another conduit for underage tobacco consumption," Uresti said, following passage of S.B. 448 today.

"Ninety percent of all adult smokers begin smoking while they are in their teens. Studies indicate that the longer we keep teens from smoking, the fewer adult smokers we will have in the future. This bill is good public health policy, and it is an excellent health promotion tool for our youth," Uresti said.

Senator Uresti noted that tobacco-related illnesses contribute to $5.83 billion dollars in Texas health care costs per year, and $1.6 billion of those costs are borne by the State's Medicaid system.

"Our population's health -- and our State's fiscal health -- depend upon preventing illness and encouraging healthy behaviors where possible. Discouraging youth from smoking is one more way to contain health care costs. But most importantly, this policy helps save lives," Uresti explained.

On April 1, 1998, the sale of cigarettes and other tobacco products to people under 18 was prohibited by law in all fifty of the United States. The legal age purchasing age has been raised to 19 in Alabama, Alaska, New Jersey, Utah, and several counties in New York.

For more information, please contact Ryan Sullivan at 512-463-0119.