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Local reaction to proposed 21 smoking age in Texas

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Amarillo, TX - Recent legislation in the Texas Senate would raise the minimum age to buy tobacco to 21 in an attempt to curb teen smoking at the cost of lost sales tax revenue.

A recent bill introduced by Senator Carlos Uresti of San Antonio Would raise the minimum age to buy tobacco to 21 in an attempt to cut down on teen smoking and save Medicare dollars.  But the bill has critics in Austin. The Legislative Budget Board said doing so would cost the state tens of millions a year in revenue.

Sen. Uresti argues enacting the bill would reduce teen smoking in Texas and save the state billions in future Medicare expenses.  But the budget board concluded the state would lose out on about $40 million a year in sales tax revenue.

Sales tax comprises about a quarter of the state's revenue, and tobacco taxes make up about 1.5 percent.  And tobacco use has actually been falling in Texas and the U.S. over the last several years, but the smoking rate in Potter County remains high, at about 25 percent.

When I spoke with Tobacco Free Amarillo earlier today, they told me their latest surveys show about 28 percent of high school seniors in Amarillo ISD said they used tobacco in the last 30 days.

Similar legislation in the Oklahoma legislature would raise their smoking age to 19.

If you'd like to learn more about the bill itself or where Texas gets its revenue, you'll find that and more at the links attached to this story.

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