San Antonio Acts to Protect Kids,… | Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
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San Antonio Acts to Protect Kids, Save Lives by Raising Tobacco Age to 21 – City Is First in Texas to Pass Tobacco 21

Statement of Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
January 11, 2018

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The San Antonio City Council took bold action today to protect kids from tobacco addiction and save lives by voting to raise the sale age of tobacco products in the city to 21. As the first city in Texas to raise the tobacco age to 21, San Antonio is setting an example for the entire state and the nation in fighting tobacco use, the No. 1 cause of preventable death. Increasing the tobacco age to 21 will help prevent young people from using tobacco, save lives and help make the next generation tobacco-free.

The San Antonio vote adds momentum to the growing movement across the nation to raise the tobacco age to 21. To date, five states – California, New Jersey, Oregon, Hawaii and Maine – have raised the tobacco age to 21, along with at least 285 localities, including New York City, Chicago, Boston, Cleveland, St. Louis and both Kansas Cities.

We applaud Mayor Ron Nirenberg, Community Health and Equity Committee Chair Ana Sandoval, and Councilmembers Roberto Treviño, William Shaw, Rey Saldana, Shirley Gonzales, Manny Pelaez, Rebecca Viagran and John Courage for their leadership in voting for the ordinance. We thank San Antonio Metropolitan Health Director Dr. Colleen Bridger for her leadership in reducing the number of young people in San Antonio who become addicted to tobacco products.

We also want to thank and congratulate all the outstanding organizations that played such key roles in getting this measure passed, including: American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN); American Heart Association; American Lung Association; The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center; March of Dimes; Bexar County Medical Society; San Antonio Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse; The University of Texas at San Antonio, The University of Texas Health San Antonio and more.

Increasing the tobacco age to 21 will reduce tobacco use among youth and young adults – age groups when nearly all tobacco use begins and that are heavily targeted by the tobacco industry. We know that about 95 percent of adult smokers began smoking before they turned 21. We also know that tobacco companies spend $8.9 billion a year – $1 million every hour – to market their deadly and addictive products, much of it aimed at young people.

Increasing in the tobacco age to 21 will help counter the industry’s relentless efforts to target young people at a critical time when many move from experimenting with tobacco to regular smoking. It will also help keep tobacco out of high schools, where younger teens often obtain tobacco products from older students. A 2015 report by the National Academy of Medicine (previously called the Institute of Medicine) concluded that increasing the tobacco sale age to 21 would yield substantial public health benefits.

Tobacco use kills nearly half a million Americans and costs the nation about $170 billion in health care bills each year. In Texas alone, tobacco kills over 28,000 adults and costs over $8.8 billion in health care expenses annually. Without additional action to reduce tobacco use, nearly half a million kids alive today in Texas will die prematurely from smoking. Increasing the tobacco age to 21 is a critical step in reducing and eventually eliminating tobacco’s terrible toll.