Democratic State Senator Carlos Uresti is sponsoring a bill that would raise the legal smoking age, from 18 to 21. Senate Bill 313 would prohibit anyone under the age of 21 who is caught purchasing or possessing tobacco, with a Class C misdemeanor, punishable by a maximum $500 fine.
"If we are serious about stemming the epidemic of tobacco-related diseases and the misery they cause, we must steer people away from the potentially devastating choice of addiction," Uresti said. "This bill recognizes and takes advantage of a simple fact. The later one tries that first cigarette, the less likely they are to become a lifetime user."
State lawmakers, however, have disagreed the past several years, as Uresti has unsuccessfully tried to raise the smoking age in his previous attempts in the legislature.
If tobacco became illegal for those between the ages of 18 and 20, the State’s Legislative Budget Board estimates that the law would decrease sales at a rate of 33%, and cost the state more than $100 million in lost tax revenue over the next five years.
For Uresti, who serves on the Senate’s Health and Human Services Committee, the issue is public welfare.
“By increasing the age for the legal purchase, possession, and use of tobacco to 21, we can reduce access to this deadly product, saving money and, more importantly, lives,” Uresti said.