Lawmakers in the US state of Texas are seeking to become the next state, after California and Hawaii, to raise the minimum smoking age to 21. Several state officials have been trying to convince lawmakers to raise the minimum age to purchase tobacco products and finding ways to keep Texans, especially kids, from picking up the habit. “We can move this bill forward,” said Rep John Zerwas, a Richmond Republican and physician who will champion the effort in the House. He will be joined by Rep Donna Howard, D-Austin, and Sens. Joan Huffman, R-Houston, and Carlos Uresti, D-San Antonio, who will each file a bill.
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Zerwas told local media that he believes the bill can get through the Legislature, especially with more Republicans backing the proposal. State Senator Uresti has been trying to convince lawmakers to raise the minimum age to purchase tobacco products for the last 10 years. “We have as good a chance as we’ve ever had. I’m just glad. I welcome all the support we can get,” Uresti was quoted as saying by the Dallas News. Texans who use tobacco products has decreased over the last decade, with more than 15 per cent of residents admitting they smoke or chew tobacco.
A 2015 report from the National Academy of Medicine says that number could decrease to 12 per cent should the minimum age to purchase products is increased. The issue concerns not just health, but money. A reduction in tobacco purchases would also mean a reduction in tax revenue. However, supporters of the initiative cite a Department of State Health Services analysis which claims that raising the smoking age could save Texas $406 million in health care costs over five years. The Department of State Health Services released a report that calculated the cost savings of reducing birth complications caused by smoking, such as low birth weights. Hawaii in June 2015 and California in May 2016 raised the legal smoking age from 18 to 21.