Bill to Raise Texas' Smoking Age Stalls after Lawmakers Realize Fewer People Would Buy Cigarettes

At the end of January, state Senator Carlos Uresti, a San Antonio Democrat, quietly filed a bill that would lift the legal age to smoke or possess cigarettes, or any other tobacco product, from 18 to 21.

"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," Uresti said at the time. "This bill recognizes and takes advantage of a simple fact. The later one tries that first cigarette, the less likely they are to become a lifetime user."

There is a very strong libertarian argument against the bill (e.g. that 18-year-olds are adults and can do whatever the hell they want), but that's not what stalled it during a hearing Tuesday morning. Rather, as the Morning News' Robert Garrett reports, it was because it would cost the state quite a sizable chunk of tax revenue.

The state comptroller's office estimates that raising the smoking age to 21 would result in a third fewer 18- to 20-year-olds using tobacco products. But that would also mean less money flowing into state coffers to the tune of $20 million per year, according to an estimate by the Legislative Budget Board, which analyzes the fiscal impact of proposed legislation.

Forfeiting that kind of cash for a progressive public health measure is a non-starter in an already cash-strapped Legislature, which is why Uresti requested consideration of his bill be delayed.

On his blog, Democratic political consultant Harold Cook points out the glaring irony in all this that "Uresti's bill has stalled because the Comptroller says the bill will accomplish exactly what Uresti hopes it will -- prevent a lot of young people from smoking."

But again, these are legally adults. Maybe the Legislature can split the baby here: raise the smoking age, lower the drinking age, and call it a wash.

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My Voice Nation Help

Eric, there's a basic rule you need to follow. Before you submit every single one of your posts, go back and delete the last paragraph because that's where you always come across as a smarmy twit.

observist topcommenter

Summary: We can't implement this cost-saving measure because it costs too much.

Montemalone topcommenter

How 'bout raise the smoking age to 21, but add more products, i.e. cannabis. I think the increased tax collections from the latter will more than make up for the losses from the former, as well as produce a much happier electorate.

scottindallas topcommenter

@Scruffygeist I hate to say I agree.  I think if you had a closing paragraph that started with "me thinks" or something to indicate that the journalism part is over. 

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

How about doubling the tobacco tax and tripling the fines for smoking on DART platforms?

ScottsMerkin topcommenter

@Myrna.Minkoff-Katz why double the tobacco tax?  why the attack on smokers just curious.  I assume then you want to tax alcohol more as well as any food that is not good for your health.  I mean, if we are going to tax unhealthy habits tax them all.  

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

Good Gravy!  Uh... hyperbole... for emphasis.. you know.

ScottsMerkin topcommenter

@Montemalone @ScottsMerkin @Myrna.Minkoff-Katz so true, if the state needs more taxes coming in, why not raise the sales tax rate on vehicles by a .5% and use it for roads?  Its a tax that most people wont even care about bc that tax most of the time is rolled into the loan they took on a car and wouldn't really affect the money out of pocket at purchase

ScottsMerkin topcommenter

@Myrna.Minkoff-Katz but alclohol drinkers go out in public and drive and kill people so under your thought process it should be. And fatty unhealthy foods affect me because health insurance cost more for everyone.  here is an idea, when you see someone smoking in a place where they are allowed to smoke, dont walk by them, you've already had smokers removed from most public places so Im sure you can avoid that little 5 ft radius of personal space the smoker is using

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

Scotty, no one is forcing alcohol down anyone's throat.  Public smoking, however, is forced upon anyone who is unfortunate to be in close proximity of the fiend.

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