LUFKIN, Texas (KTRE) - Texas is increasing its minimum age to buy, sell, or possess tobacco products to 21.
“Gov. Abbott joined and decided to go ahead and sign SB 21 into law,” said Sharon Kruk, executive director of The Coalition of Angelina County.
The law puts Texas among 14 others states that have raised the minimum tobacco purchasing age to 21. Those states are Arkansas, California, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon, Utah, Vermont, Virginia and Washington, according to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
Kellen Kruk, 18, has been making efforts to help raise awareness about tobacco usage.
“I know that this is going to change lives. This is going to push tobacco products out of those hands that don’t need it, that will be addicted to it for their life. So i’m excited that we’re saving lives here in Texas," Kellen said.
Texas 21 is an advocate group that aims to prevent tobacco use. The coalition says at least 10,400 kids become smokers every year in the state of Texas.
Sharon Kruk echoes those same concerns.
“Data shows that the more that you reduce access the more you reduce youth prevalence rates,” she said.
And one-third of them will die prematurely as a result. Kruk says raising the age to 21 will effectively push all tobacco products out of high schools.
"The more that we can push that age up to 21 and even further and keep from using these products before their brains are fully developed the more that we are protecting them from future addiction,” Sharon said.
According to the bill, military members are exempt. Those between 18 to 21 years of age and with a valid military ID can purchase tobacco products.
Texas 21 says about 95 percent of smokers start before age 21.
The law goes into effect Sept. 1, at which time a violation would be a Class C misdemeanor with a fine of up to $500.