San Antonio city council voted Thursday to raise the legal age to purchase tobacco products from 18 to 21.
San Antonio is the first city in Texas to raise the purchasing age. Several cities, including New York, Boston and Chicago, have similar laws.
Colleen Bridger, with the city’s Metropolitan Health District, said tobacco habits, cost the city big bucks in the long run.
“We know people who smoke cost health insurers much more than people who don't smoke,” she said. “They have more absenteeism and less productivity.”
Bridger said the goal is to stop younger people from getting addicted in the first place. “If somebody doesn't start smoking before the age of 21, they will likely never start,” said Bridger.
While research shows only 2% of tobacco sales come from people age 18-20, local business owners say the average person buying tobacco will also buy a snack, a drink, or gas.
“It's not just the purchase of tobacco,” said Paul Hardin, with the Texas Food and Fuel Association. “It's a soda, a fountain drink, a Twinkie. Whatever it may be, that's how these guys survive.”
Others had argued the move would create unfair competition, driving buyers to nearby cities.
“If this law is so good, we would love to do it, but do it at the state level,” said Anwar Tahir, a convenience store owner.
However, city health officials have done their research, and say they disagree.
“People rarely travel outside their usual routes to purchase tobacco,” said Bridger. “We've seen this time and time again when cities pass Tobacco 21, smoking use goes down.”