EL PASO, Texas - A push to raise the smoking age to 21 in Texas is gaining support on both sides of the political aisle.
Richmond Republican and physician Rep. John Zerwas told the Dallas Morning News Tuesday, "We can move this bill forward."
Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin; Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston; and Sen. Carlos Uresti, D-San Antonio, all plan to file similar bills. Uresti has championed similar legislation in the past.
"If we can discourage smoking at the age of 18, taking it all the way to 21, then you're definitely improving quality of life," said Dr. Andres Enriquez, of the Franklin Medical Center in El Paso. Raising the legal smoking age will have "tremendous health advantages," Enriquez added.
The Department of State Health Services released a report that calculated the cost savings of reducing birth complications caused by smoking, such as low birth weights.
Data from the fiscal note filed for SB 313, similar legislation backed by Sen. Uresti, shows that over five years, the State of Texas would have saved $406,295,932, in addition to preventing 1,374 pre-term births and 2,346 "low birth weights."
Stretch that to 25 years, and the Department of Health services hikes the saving to $5,595,181,610.
Dr. Enriquez said Texas is "at the forefront of everything," and health should be included.
To some, imposing restrictions on people who are legally adults may appear to be at odds with our personal freedoms. Justin Barnes, 26, said the current smoking age seems fine to him. "Eighteen is a good age because, I mean, people know the risks," said Barnes.
April Dominguez, 22, told ABC 7 restricting something, doesn't always work. "They'll find a way to get the cigarette no matter what," said Dominguez.