Convenience store owners stage Tobacco 21 protest at City Hall

Proposed SA city ordinance would raise minimum age to buy tobacco products to 21

By Max Massey - Video Journalist

SAN ANTONIO - Local convenience store owners took to the steps of City Hall on Wednesday to protest a proposed city ordinance that would raise the minimum age of buying tobacco in the San Antonio city limits from 18 to 21.

"How (am I) going to pay my bills?" said Anwar Tahir, president of the Association Of Convenience Store Retailers. "How am I going to pay my expenses? Pay my employees?"

Paul Hardin, president of the Texas Food and Fuel Organization, said the proposal will also harm the local economy.

"We think it's unfair business practice to where markets outside of the whatever respective territory. Whether that's county, city or state boundaries, and move that business to other locations," he said.

But San Antonio Metropolitan Health District director Colleen Bridger disagreed.

"When passed, we've seen it time and time and time again. Once Tobacco 21 passes, smoking goes down. People don't go to another city to buy their tobacco products," she said. "What we know from national data is about two percent of tobacco sales are for 18-, 19-, 20-year-olds. So, it is a relatively small percentage of tobacco sales nationwide."

Business owners said the proposal would discriminate against mom-and-pop stores, but Bridger said there is a random decoy search in place where 10 businesses, large and small, could be chosen for the searches.

District 6 City Councilman Greg Brockhouse, who was at the protest, sided with the business owners, saying if 18-year-olds can serve in the military, they should have the right to buy tobacco.

Brockhouse and the rest of his fellow City Council colleagues are scheduled to vote on the controversial issue Thursday.

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