San Antonio becomes first city in Texas to raise tobacco sale age to 21

Cigarette, Smoke, Ashtray
FILE - In this Saturday, March 2, 2013, photo, a cigarette burns in an ashtray at a home in Hayneville, Ala. A government study released on Monday, Jan. 11, 2016, shows that even though fewer U.S. teens are smoking, exposure to secondhand smoke remains a big problem. Nearly half of nonsmoking kids in middle school and high school were exposed to secondhand tobacco smoke in 2013, and rates were even higher among smokers. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)

SAN ANTONIO, Texas (KXAN) — Even though a statewide bill to raise the legal age to buy tobacco to 21 failed in last year’s legislative session, the city of San Antonio is moving forward with its own law.

On Thursday, the San Antonio City Council approved a new ordinance prohibiting stores within the city limits from selling tobacco products to anyone under 21 years old. According to the San Antonio Express-News, the law won’t go into effect until Oct. 1, which was a last minute change since the original agenda item indicated an August start.

Over the next six months, the city says it will work on educating the public and retailers about the new law. New signage will be placed at stores, and if a retailer is suspected of selling tobacco products to someone under the age of 21, the city’s health department may check compliance. If a retailer is caught violating the law, a citation with a maximum fine of $500 will be issued.

According to a city memo, raising the age requirement “will have a substantial positive impact on the public health and will save lives.”

San Antonio is the first city in Texas to implement such a law.

“Ordinances like this one are critical to reduce and eventually eliminate tobacco’s toll, especially considering that nationally about 95 percent of adult smokers started before they turned 21,” said American Cancer Society Texas Grassroots Director Charlie Gagen in a statement.” In Texas, more than 12,000 kids become new daily smokers every year.”

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