The city of Austin is poised to follow San Antonio's lead in raising the age for buying tobacco from 18 to 21.
Here in Houston, officials so far are in wait-and-see mode before introducing any proposals to raise the tobacco age in the Bayou City.
“We want to see how it’s done and take a look at how it’s been implemented elsewhere, and then see what the interest is in Houston,” says Dr. Joann Schulte, chief physician for the Houston Health Department.
“About 90-percent of cigarette smokers had started by the time they were 18,” she says. “So if you can delay a behavior and people become more mature, perhaps that will reduce the smoking rate.”
San Antonio's policy goes into effect October 1.
“I think it’s a good idea to raise the levels in such a way that fewer people start smoking,” says Schulte. “But how that’s most practical, if that’s done at the city level, county level or a state level is the development of policy and that’s something that takes months.”
Efforts to raise the tobacco age statewide failed last session, but could be reintroduced next year.