An eighteenth birthday is a major moment in the life of a teenager. Magically, all of a sudden, you’re entitled to a host of new privileges; voting, serving in the military, buying a lottery ticket. But in San Antonio, what you can no longer do is buy tobacco products.
Monday, a new ordinance went into effect in the Alamo City raising the minimum age to buy things like cigarettes and vaping devices from 18 to 21. Gilbert Garcia, metro columnist for the San Antonio Express-News says raising the minimum age ended up on the San Antonio City Council’s radar, based on a national movement. Garcia says the first city in the U.S. to raise the tobacco-buying age was Needham, Massachusetts in 2005. San Antonio is the first Texas city to do so.
“They found within five years or so that high school smoking had dropped by nearly 50 percent,” Garcia says, quoting San Antonio Director of Metropolitan Health, Dr. Colleen Bridger. “There’s kind of a pipeline that exists between say, a high school senior and a high school freshman where the socialization process of smoking cigarettes gets passed from one to another.”
Garcia says the city weighed the effects of this decision on multiple parts of the community. He says owner of smaller convenience store are speaking out because their businesses depend on the sale of cigarettes in areas with high populations of young smokers. He says they also have the possibility of newly underage smokers simply driving across city lines to a suburb to purchase cigarettes to contend with.
“I think that council members took that into account,” Garcia says. “I think they still felt that the only power they had was to deal with San Antonio and the hope was that some of these other communities will follow.”
In the past, the state legislature has weighed in on local ordinances that restrict city residents, or ban activities that are allowed in other parts of the state. These include plastic bag bans and fracking limits. Garcia says it San Antonio’s youth tobacco ban is likely to be scrutinized during the next legislative session.
Written by Brooke Sjoberg.