On Oct. 1, San Antonio becomes the first Texas city to raise tobacco buying age
Next week, San Antonio will become the first city in Texas to raise the tobacco-buying age from 18 to 21.
The ordinance goes beyond current state law, which only bans sales of tobacco products to minors and penalizes them for using and possessing cigarettes, chewing tobacco and other products.
Retailers and merchants face a maximum fine of $500 if they violate the San Antonio ordinance. Unlike state law, local law won’t penalize young adults caught buying or using tobacco.
“We’re hoping to get the message across to teens and young adults that tobacco is bad for your health,” said Mario Martinez, assistant director of San Antonio Metropolitan Health District’s environmental health & safety division.
San Antonio joined 280 U.S. municipalities that have enacted similar laws when City Council voted 9-2 in January to raise the tobacco buying age from 18 to 21.
Initially, the ordinance was slated to go into effect in August. But City Council members voted to push the rollout date to Oct. 1 to give neighboring municipalities time to pass similar ordinances of their own.
So far, no other municipalities in the San Antonio area have enacted their own ordinances raising the tobacco-buying age to 21, Martinez said. But he anticipates state lawmakers will take up legislation to raise the age statewide when the Texas Legislature convenes next year.
Opponents have already vowed to push state lawmakers to override the San Antonio ordinance with new legislation.
Under the new law, tobacco sellers must display current state signage about the tobacco-buying age alongside city-provided signage updating the age to 21; have employees sign a form showing they understand the ordinance; and continue checking customers’ IDs if they look like they’re younger than 27.
Inspectors with Metro Health have been visiting with the city’s 1,100 tobacco retailers ahead of the Oct. 1 rollout, Martinez said, informing them about the new ordinance and what they must do to comply.
Tobacco sellers will have a bit of a grace period. But starting in January, city health inspectors will conduct unannounced decoy visits to randomly selected retailers to make sure they are complying with the law.
City officials have previously said they plan to issue a six-month report to track the ordinance’s effectiveness.
Joshua Fechter is a San Antonio-based staff writer covering retail and tourism. Read him on our free site, mySA.com, and on our subscriber site, ExpressNews.com. | email@example.com | Twitter: @JFreports