AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Senate bill, raising the minimum purchasing age of tobacco products to 21, passed out of the Senate on Tuesday, but with an exemption allowing military men and women 18 and over to buy with a military issued ID.
“After conversations with some members, stakeholders and the governor’s office, I will add an exception for members of active duty state or federal military service,” said State Senator Joan Huffman, a Republican from Houston. “These individuals are often required to move across state lines, to avoid any confusion, I’ll let the military take up how they want to address rules and regulations.”
Thirteen other states have also voted to raise the tobacco age to 21.
According to Texas 21, legislation passed by Arkansas, California, Maryland, Utah and Virginia also include military exemptions.
Charlie Gagen, the state grassroots director for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network said buying tobacco products shouldn’t be considered a priviledge for military members. Preventing people from smoking should be a priority for us all.
“There’s a concern that military members need to be protected since they are putting their lives on the line. We fundamentally disagree, we believe all Texans should be protected,” said Gagen.
“95 percent off adult smokers start smoking before they turn 21, 80 percent of adult smokers become daily smokers before they turn 18, and 33 percent of kids under 18 who become regular smokers will die as a result of smoking.”
The Texas 21 Coalition reports the U.S. Department of Defense spends $1.6 billion on tobacco-related healthcare for military men and women. By eliminating the exemption, it would not only save money, but also lives.
“We need to protect those in the military who are willing to put their lives on the line from a lifetime of addiction,” Gagen said.
There’s a copy of this bill that has already passed the house. Both versions will make their way to the committee next for final approval.
Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick has said in the past that raising the tobacco age is one of his highest priorities.