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San Antonio Raises Minimum Age To Buy Tobacco Products

Joey Palacios
Texas Public Radio
San Antonio Metro Health Director Dr. Colleen Bridger delivers a presentation on Tobacco 21 shortly before the vote Thursday.

People between the ages of 18 and 20 will not be able to buy tobacco in San Antonio, starting Oct. 1 after a 9 to 2 vote by City Council Thursday. District 6 Councilman Greg Brockhouse and District 10 Clayton Perry were the two dissenting votes.


San Antonio is the first Texas city to adopt such a measure. It’s part of a larger movement called Tobacco 21, which claims to have been adopted by 25 percent of the country. While the specifics of each program vary by city, they all attempt to restrict the purchase of tobacco products by young adults. This includes e-cigarettes.

District 7 Councilwoman Ana Sandoval said the move is a positive step in discouraging young people in all parts of the city from smoking.

“It will affect the wealthiest neighborhoods, it will affect the poorest neighborhoods, (It will affect) everyone between the ages of 18 to 20.

“No matter where you live, (you) will be unable to purchase tobacco,” she said.

Some last minute changes put in the ordinance include delaying its implantation to Oct. 1 and randomly selecting stores for decoy visits. The ordinance was pushed back from August to give other cities in Bexar County and unincorporated Bexar County time to adopt a similar policy.

Brockhouse and Perry recommended delaying the vote to allow for additional input and time for other cities to consider the same measure; both suggests were defeated.

Metro Health will hire persons between ages 18 and 20 to buy tobacco from retailers for the decoy visits. There will be 100 visits to random stores per year — 10 visits within each of the 10 council districts.

Retail store owners said the ordinance would cause lose revenue, as customers could go to any of the other city in Bexar County to purchase tobacco products, Perry said.

“I’m failing to see how making San Antonio an island here in Texas — and not only an island but with holes within that island — is going to be effective,” he said.

San Antonio Metro Health director Dr. Colleen Bridger said the city will work with businesses to address their concerns over lost business.

“We’ve got nine months to sit down with all of the stakeholders and figure out the best way to do this, as well as work with convenience stores on other revenue options such as becoming (Women, Infants, and Children) providers or healthy corner stores,” she said.

Earlier versions of the ordinance included a fine for minors in possession, but that was removed.

TPR's Jerry Quijano contributed to this report

Joey Palacios can be reached atjoey@tpr.org or on Twitter at @joeycules

Joey Palacios can be reached atJoey@TPR.org and on Twitter at @Joeycules