TX senator wants increase in legal age to buy tobacco - KYTX CBS 19 Tyler Longview News Weather Sports

TX senator wants increase in legal age to buy tobacco

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(KYTX) - 21 to drink, 18 to smoke. That's the law here, but one South Texas lawmaker wants to change that.

Democratic Senator Carlos Uresti is pushing to raise the legal age to buy tobacco products in the Lone Star State from 18 to 21 years old.

"18 is mature enough. You're mature enough."

21-year-old Adrian Cerda says he started smoking at 19. His age group is what many gas stations rely on for business.

"Hello, how you doing ma'am?"

Habib Sarr is a cashier at the Food Fast on Troup Highway in Tyler.

He says 18 through 21 year olds make up a huge portion of the store's tobacco sales.

"Like 40 to 45% are between that age."

"That's a lot of people." says Cerda.

Habib says he's worried that if the age limit were increased to 21, it would hurt business.

"I think that'll cut down the sales because there's a lot of kids between 18 and 21 who buy a lot of cigarettes and smoke."

But, that's exactly what Senator Carlos Uresti wants to change.

He's behind senate Bill 313. It calls for a ban on the sale of cigarettes or tobacco products to people younger than 21.

In a press release on his website, Senator Uresti states, "If we are serious about stemming the epidemic of tobacco-related diseases and the misery they cause, we must steer people away from the potentially devastating choice of addiction."

"Once they get on it, it will be hard for them to get off of it."

Charles Ervin kicked the habit 10 years ago and says he knows how addicting tobacco can be. He's on board with the bill.

"Because, if they get it too young, that could be a 'no no.'"

Still, others are worried about the potentially devastating economic impact it could have on our state.

"It'll cut down business a lot and I think that'll reduce the sale of tobacco in the State of Texas, too." says Habib. 

Critics say we could lose nearly $100 million in tax revenue over the next five years if the bill passes.

But, according to the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, smoking kills more people than alcohol, AIDS, car accidents, illegal drugs, murders, and suicides combined. It also says that of all the kids who become new smokers each year, almost a third will ultimately die from it.

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