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SAN ANTONIO -- It just might be true that everything is bigger in Texas, including age -- that's if Sen. Carlos Uresti, D-San Antonio has his way. The state senator has filed a bill for the upcoming legislative session to move the Texas legal age to use and buy tobacco products from 18 to 19 years old, the Star-Telegram reported. Uresti argues that his proposal is an important step in breaking the addiction cycle which tends to begin during a person's teen years.
"Raising the smoking age would limit availability to the vast majority of high school students, most of whom have graduated by the time they turn 19," Uresti told the news source. "With this decrease in availability would come a corresponding decrease in accessibility for underage adolescents."
Other states in the country have already implemented the law that a person must be at least 19 years old to purchase and use tobacco products, those states are: Alabama, Alaska, New Jersey and Utah.
According to the federal Centers for Disease Control, one in every five Texans 18 and older are regular smokers; but by delaying legal access to smoking it can greatly reduce early addiction to nicotine according to further research, but that's hard to do if 18-year-olds are buying the product and sharing it with underage friends, the Star-Telegram stated.
"We know that almost 90 percent of current smokers start before the age of 19," Philip Huang, a spokesman for the Texas Medical Association told the news outlet. "The longer you can delay any initiations, the more effective you are in getting people not to start. Tobacco is the No. 1 preventable cause of death and disease in Texas."It kills more than AIDS, crack, heroin, cocaine, alcohol, car accidents, fire and murder combined. Anything we can do to address this important public health problem is important."
Opponents of the bill claim that if 18-year-old Texans are old enough to serve in the military, then they should be old enough to decide for themselves whether or not to use tobacco products.
Uresti added to his argument that while raising the smoking age by a year would cut the amount of taxes Texas can collect on cigarette sales, it would save teen's lives and reduce healthcare costs, the news outlet reported.
The Star-Telegram reported that there was no comment on the bill from Bill Phelps, spokesman for Phillip Morris.