Why We Should Raise the Tobacco Sale Age in Texas


Image Source: Tobacco21.org

Tobacco is still the number 1 preventable cause of death in Texas. Annually, 12,300 new Texas youth become daily smokers. A shocking one-third of them will die prematurely as a result.

Smokers get hooked at a young age, with about 95% of smokers starting before age 21. In Texas, 10,400 kids under 18 become new daily smokers each year. And, because many high school seniors turn 18 while still in school, friends and classmates are a common source of tobacco products for these underage users. But we can begin to tackle these trends – and help keep tobacco out of schools – by raising the tobacco sales age in Texas to 21.

Raising the tobacco sale age to 21 is an effective strategy to fight tobacco use, and it’s gaining momentum nationwide. Six states have raised their tobacco sale ages to 21, along with more than 360 cities and counties across the country.

San Antonio recently became the first city in Texas to pass a Tobacco 21 law. Right now, there is an effort underway to get this done statewide during the next Texas legislative session.

With the rapid growth in e-cigarette use among young people – from 2017 to 2018, the number of high-school-age children saying they use e-cigarettes rose by more than 75 percent – there are many concerns that these types of electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) are becoming an “on-ramp for children to become addicted to nicotine.” These concerns seem warranted since “more high school kids are smoking cigarettes as vaping surges, reversing a two-decade-long decline.” Alarming statistics like these make it even more important for us to do everything we can to keep young people from smoking.

That’s one of the many reasons why we’re supporting our friends at Texas Tobacco 21, a coalition of organizations working with community partners like you to save lives by preventing tobacco use. Members of the coalition include the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Heart Association, Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, and American Lung Association, Texas Academy of Family Physicians, Texas Medical Association, and Texas Pediatric Society.

For Texas Tobacco 21 updates, visit texas21.org or follow them on Facebook and Twitter. You can also sign up for their newsletter for more information about Tobacco 21 meetings and events taking place across Texas.

YLC Members of the Month: Andrea Marquez and Carlos Vela

Carlos and Andrea after testifying at the Capitol

Andrea Marquez and Carlos Vela were selected as the April and May YLC Members of the Month for their outstanding advocacy efforts; both made trips to the Texas Capitol to provide public testimony on issues that affect underage alcohol and tobacco use.

Catching an early morning flight from El Paso to Austin, Andrea spent two days in town so she could testify on her concerns about powdered alcohol before the House Licensing & Administrative Procedures Committee and Senate Business & Commerce Committee. During her testimony, Andrea discussed why she thinks it’s important to ban the product and demonstrated how easy it would be for a youth to conceal powdered alcohol packets. Armed with a makeup bag containing 48 Kool-Aid packets (the approximate size of a powdered alcohol packet), she dumped them onto the table and shared that the packets in her small bag equaled more shots than what you would find in a large 1.75L bottle of alcohol. She then asked legislators to think about which one they thought would be easier for a young person to sneak out of the house without their parents noticing: the bottle or the bag? Her powerful testimony helped educate everyone in the room on the potential harms we would see if powdered alcohol ever made it to the shelves.

Making the drive from Ingleside, Carlos came to Austin so he could testify before the House Public Health Committee. Though the hearing got postponed, super advocate Carlos hung around for an extra day so he could speak to the benefits of raising the legal purchase age of tobacco from 18 to 21. He asked for Texas to be a leader in the fight against tobacco by becoming the third state to raise the tobacco age to 21. Carlos also used his personal story about growing up around tobacco use and being offered tobacco in high school to help explain why raising the purchase age will help keep tobacco out of schools and away from youth during an impressionable time in their lives. Since 95% of smokers start before age 21, raising the age of sale to 21 is seen as an effective way to protect our kids from tobacco addiction and save lives. If you’re interested in learning more, Texas 21, a coalition of organizations working to prevent tobacco use, has put together a wealth of information on the issue. Check it out at texas21.org.

We are incredibly proud to call Andrea and Carlos members of our Youth Leadership Council. Along with their fellow YLC members, they constantly inspire us to do more and work harder to ensure we’re creating safe and healthy communities for everyone. If you’d like to learn more about the YLC and how to get involved, contact Georgia Marks at gmarks@texansstandingtall.org or 512.442.7501.

Andrea reminding us to make every day awesome!