For Those Under 21, Tobacco Purchases Under Scrutiny

Sep 25, 2017

San Antonio may raise the age for tobacco purchases from 18 to 21, pending the results of an ongoing survey by Metro Health. 

The survey, which began September 15, aims to gauge public opinion about increasing the age for tobacco purchases.

"We're looking to continue the survey for a few more weeks. We're hoping to reach about 5,000 individuals in the community," said Carol Schliesinger of Metro Health. 

Schliesinger says that the survey began with the Health Department itself, at the suggestion of Director Colleen Bridger.  A new tobacco age requirement could affect many business owners who sell cigarettes, e-cigarettes, vapes, hookahs, and chewing tobacco.

Majid Mehrafza is the owner of Naara Hookah Cafe in Northwest San Antonio. He says he's not concerned with the possibility of an age increase for tobacco purchases, and that most of his clientele are older than 21. 

But he says that changes to the rules could bring unintended consequences. 

"Look back in the history: any kind of a prohibition will increase usage. So, at the age of 19 or 20, if I can't get my hands on a cigarette, I would want it more," Mehrafza explained. 

In Bexar County, around 13 percent of high school males and 10 percent of high school females smoke. If San Antonio were to increase the legal minimum sale age of tobacco to 21, it would be the first city in Texas to do so.

If San Antonio were to increase the legal minimum sale age of tobacco to 21, it would be the first city in Texas to do so. In November 2016, Sen. Carlos Uresti introduced a bill that would apply that age restriction statewide. 

Five other states and 250 municipalities have already put similar rules into effect. 

According to figures released by the Centers for Disease Control, cigarette smoking alone accounts for more than 480,000 deaths per year in the U.S.