AUSTIN, Texas (KXAN) — On Friday, Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law Senate Bill 21, which will stop the sale of cigarettes, e-cigarettes and other tobacco products to Texans younger than 21.
With the governor’s signature, Texas will be the 16th state in the U.S. to raise the minimum legal tobacco age to 21.
The bill was championed by Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston, and Rep. John Zerwas, R-Richmond. In addition, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick made raising the tobacco age one of his legislative priorities.
Shelby Massey, the Texas Government Relations Director for the American Heart Association, celebrated the bill’s passage, saying:
“Senate Bill 21 would not be law without the hard work and leadership of bill authors Senator Joan Huffman and Representative John Zerwas. Thank you to them, Governor Abbott and the Texas Legislature for taking this important step to reduce and eventually eliminate the toll of tobacco on young Texans. Delaying the age when young people first begin to use tobacco – the leading cause of preventable death – will reduce the risk they will develop a deadly addiction.”
According to the Texas21 Coalition, in Texas, 7.4% of high school students smoke and over 10% use e-cigarettes, while 10,400 kids become daily smokers every year. Nearly half a million (498,000) Texas children alive now will ultimately die prematurely from smoking if current trends continue.
In addition, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report released in February found a 78 percent increase in high school students using e-cigarettes in one year, raising the number of middle and high school tobacco users to almost 5 million and reversing past progress to reduce youth tobacco product use.
The age restriction will not apply to those who are in the military.