San Antonians may have to wait until they are 21 years old to buy tobacco products, if a proposal from the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District (Metro Health) makes its way to City Council in the next couple of weeks.
Nothing is set in stone yet — Metro Health is gauging community interest through a survey before introducing the potential ordinance that could increase the minimum age for tobacco consumers from 18 to 21 years old. The survey will be open for two or three more weeks, according to Carol Schliesinger, the public relations manager for Metro Health.
If SACC were to pass the ordinance, it would be the first city in Texas to join a wave of cities and counties across the country doing so. 260 localities have raised the age for purchasing tobacco products to 21, according to Tobacco Free Kids, an anti-tobacco organization.
Although council members have not yet seen a materialized ordinance, the item is on their radar as something they could potentially discuss in coming weeks. Councilman John Courage of District 9, said he would likely be in favor of the proposal.
“In my opinion, this is a public health issue and an addiction issue; so I would be in favor of increasing the minimum age for purchasing tobacco products to 21,” Courage said. “I have yet to see the specific ordinance, but I would remain in support, so long as the responsibility is placed on the distributors of the tobacco products. I would not want to criminalize possession for young folks who happen to be between the age of 18 and 20.”
According to Metro Health, 12.6 percent of high school males and 9.9 percent of high school females in Bexar County are smokers — a number they say has increased due to “abundant availability of nicotine-delivery products, including electronic cigarettes.”
Tobacco use is still the leading preventable cause of death in the United States, causing more than 480,000 deaths each year (including deaths from secondhand smoke) according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Earlier this year, state lawmakers in the Texas Legislature introduced bipartisan legislation to prohibit the sale of tobacco products to anyone under 21 years of age, but none of the bills made it onto the Senate or House floor for debate.