Stephenville reacts to new law raising the legal smoking age
Sarah Hayner– Associate Producer
New tobacco laws went into effect on September 1, 2019 in Texas. Senate Bill 21, authorized by Senator Joan Huffman, changed the legal smoking age from 18 to 21.
The goal of the bill was to “keep cigarettes, electronic cigarettes and tobacco products out of public schools by creating more social distance between younger students and students old enough to purchase them,” Huffman said.
It is illegal to sell or provide tobacco products to a minor under 21 years of age. The exemptions are for people who were born on or before August 30, 2001, and active military persons who are 18 and have a valid military ID card.
“Raising the age to 21 is a good idea,” Stephenville PD Resource Officer Joe Sherrod said.
Sherrod was not convinced that the new law would help stop minors from using tobacco products.
“The past legal age of 18 to purchase and use tobacco products did not prevent underage students from using tobacco. I’m doubtful that raising the age to 21 and lowering the fines will help prevent underage tobacco use,” Sherrod said.
A 17-year-old minor who attends Stephenville High School says he doesn’t think the new law is very fair.
“I wish they hadn’t changed it to 21…The kids that were already 18, they got grandfathered in, so it’s kind of unfair for the kids that weren’t 18,” he said.
He believes “they are wasting their time with this law.”
“It will cause underage smoking, no doubt. It’s super easy [to buy tobacco if you are underage]. Like if I wanted someone to get it for me right now, I could do it. Because all the people that were already 18 would get it for you. And some adults will also get it for you,” the student said.
People with Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) licenses are trained to not sell alcohol or tobacco to minors. “We scan the ID’s, so it is pretty easy,” Murphy USA gas station clerk Kobey Hoffman said. “It’s about the same as before. The complaints aren’t from the younger people, they are all from the older customers. We are having to check IDs for all ages. It’s basically a mandatory check for all ages. There are a lot of unhappy older people.”