The Texas Senate has advanced legislation to raise the state’s smoking age to 21.
In a diversion from the principles of liberty and personal responsibility, the aptly named Senate Bill 21 raises the age for the purchase, use, and possession of tobacco products from 18 to 21 in the state, should it find its way through the Texas House and off the governor’s desk with his signature.
Republican State Sens. Paul Bettencourt (Houston), Donna Campbell (New Braunfels), Pete Flores (Pleasanton), Lois Kolkhorst (Brenham), Charles Perry (Lubbock), Kel Seliger (Amarillo), and Larry Taylor (Friendswood) joined with all but one Democrat in supporting the measure, seeing to it that the bill navigates safely over to the Texas House for further consideration. The lone Democrat to side against the bill was State Sen. John Whitmire of Houston.
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who made the bill a legislative priority for the Senate, released the following statement upon the bill passing out of his chamber:
“I want to thank Sen. Huffman for passing this important legislation for the children of Texas. Senate Bill 21 will save lives and is an investment in Texas’ future. Increasing the age to purchase tobacco products in Texas to 21 will not only improve public health and save countless lives, it will save Texans billions of dollars in health care costs.”
This marks Patrick’s first legislative priority that has received the support of more Democrats than Republicans to pass out of the chamber.
The bill was amended by Huffman on the floor to carve out active duty military personnel before its final vote Tuesday. It is unclear at this time whether the amendment was needed in order to secure additional votes.
Of the senators who voted against the legislation, Republican State Sen. Pat Fallon (Prosper) issued Texas Scorecard the following statement:
“Nearly 50 years ago we decided as a society that the age of consent was 18. A young person is a legal adult upon their 18th birthday. To now say that it will be unlawful for adults in Texas to make a choice to use a legal product seems terribly inconsistent. I personally don’t use tobacco products in any form and never have. I do not encourage tobacco use and I personally abhor it. But it’s not for me to decide and make life choices for other legally recognized adults. “
Mineola Republican State Sen. Bryan Hughes, the bill’s pivotal vote out of committee, kept good on his promise to oppose the bill on the Senate floor. Hughes said his only reason for supporting it in committee was so the bill could be debated by the members at large; however, upon its arrival, the bill was taken up quietly with no members asking any questions of its author and no amendments being offered up for potential adoption or even debate.
Hughes may have opposed the bill on its final vote from the floor, but played, in hindsight, a critical role in seeing to it the legislation left the chamber and remained intact further along the legislative process.
The Texas House will now receive the bill and refer it to committee for consideration in the coming days.