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April 11th, 2009:

Texas Lawmakers Push to Raise Smoking Age to 19

NewsWest 9 by Victor Lopez

They’re considered adults for just about everything. If passed, a bill headed to the Senate, would make 18-year-olds minors when it comes to smoking and tobacco products.

The idea behind it is to cut back on the number of teens that smoke. But everyone NewsWest 9 spoke to, agrees. People should be allowed to make up their own mind, especialy if they’re already adults in the eyes of the law.

“It’s just a perogative, dude. If you choose to smoke, you choose to smoke, plain and simple,” one man, said.

Bryan Allen owns and runs The Tobacco Shack in Midland. His customers range from the barely legal to retirement age. He says, by this time, they should be allowed to smoke if they want too, “I get people from 18 years of age all the way to 80. If you’re 18 and you’re old enough to go fight for your country in war and die, then you ought to be old enough to smoke cigarrettes.”

To him, raising the age by one year, isn’t going to change things much, if at all because if they want it bad enough, they’re going to find a way to get their hands on a cigarette. “If they’re 18 they’re going to know somebody that’s 19 and they’re going to be able to get one of their friends to buy it for them.”

Some Midland residents, like Jan Lawbaugh, have their own similar opinions, “If the kids are going to buy cigarettes, they’ll get them somehow, if that’s what they want to do. So I don’t think it will make any difference what age they put on it.”

Midland mom, Linda Palmer had this to say, “I think it would be pointless. The legal age is 18. You can vote at 18. You can do anything at 18, so why not be able to buy cigarrettes at 18?”

Her 16-year-old daughter Ariel English agrees, “I think it’s pointless. I think their friends would buy them for them.”

Buying underage or selling tobacco products to minors is a punishable offense. Allen makes sure they follow the letter of the law, “We just ID them. We need a Texas ID. You know, that’s the law, sorry. It’s not worth the fine or the hassle.”

Four other states have already raised their legal age to 19. The same bill was passed by the Texas Senate, but failed in the House back in 2007.