Metro Health wants public input before proposing raising smoking age to 21

Tobacco 21 proposal supported by 5 states, 250 cities

SAN ANTONIO – The San Antonio Metropolitan Health District wants to find out if residents support pushing the legal tobacco-buying age to 21 as it gets ready to present its proposal to city leaders next month.

Metro Health District Director Colleen Bridger said by raising the age, they would be lowering the chance a person can get addicted to tobacco.

“The vast majority of kids who are under 18 get their tobacco products from kids who are over 18 to 20 years old. If we raise the age to 21, we cut off a source of smoking to kids younger than 18,” she said. 

The Tobacco 21 proposal has been supported by five states and 250 cities nationwide. Bridger said nationwide, the large majority of those polled support a change like this. She pointed to statistics in Bexar County, where 12.6 percent of high school males are smokers and about 10 percent of females smoke. 

“For the first time in a long time, we're seeing an uptick in the use of tobacco, use in high school students, not so much cigarettes but E-cigarettes, vaping products,” Bridger said. “This [proposal] would include E-cigarettes, vaping products, hookah and all that. Because it has nicotine in it, it is addictive. The whole point is to allow the brain to develop more before they get exposed to those addictive substances.”

Bridger’s office wants to get the pulse of the community before it takes the proposal to City Council.

“When you speak philosophically, people oppose this,” Bridger said. “But when you ask them ‘You have a son 18 years old, do you want your son to smoke?’ the vast majority of people will say ‘No I don’t want my son to smoke.’”

Gabriel Mendez with Thanks for Vaping said his customers range from 18 to 65 years old. Raising the legal age would have a slight impact on his business, but he doesn’t think it would get the support.

“Texas has always been the state that allows you to do what you want,” he said, adding that those youngsters always find a way to get away with what they want. “If they can’t get it, then there’s always going to be an alternative to either asking mom, dad, cousin, sibling, whatever, to come get it for them.”

Efforts by state leaders to pass similar laws have fallen flat.

To let the city know how you feel about this proposal, take the survey on its website

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