CONTACT: Carol Schliesinger, 210-207-8172
SAN ANTONIO (Oct. 1, 2018) – Today, San Antonio became the first city in Texas to increase the minimum legal sales age for tobacco products from 18 to 21, to include electronic smoking devices. The public health measure is intended to reduce the number of young consumers of tobacco products and, in time, reduce overall tobacco addiction. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) tobacco is the leading cause of disease, disability and death in the United States with 95% of adult smokers who started smoking before age 21.
Since San Antonio City Council passed the ordinance in January, Metro Health worked on a variety of efforts to ensure a successful roll out of the ordinance. Metro Health teams have communicated with retailer merchant associations via letters, postcards, email, and hosted seven stakeholder meetings. Health inspectors visited more than 1,100 tobacco retailers twice in 2018, to provide Tobacco 21 education materials. A majority of merchants reported that they were aware of the changes. Education for retailers and community will continue thru 2019. Citations to tobacco retailers will only be issued after Jan. 1, 2019, during routine annual inspections and random decoy compliance visits. The penalty for retailers can be up to $500 if there is no Tobacco 21 signage displayed within the store, not having employee notification forms on file, or for selling to those under 21. Young adults between ages 18 to 20 found in possession will not be cited.
In addition to the retailer education efforts, Metro Health presented and encouraged other municipalities in Bexar County to consider passing a Tobacco 21 ordinance. This has included three Bexar County-wide presentations to area mayors and City Managers. Efforts to bring statewide Tobacco 21 legislation to the 2019 legislative session continue to grow.
To educate the community, Metro Health developed a Tobacco 21 education toolkit and with the assistance of community partners, has shared it through outreach events and distributed it to school districts, colleges and universities and military bases throughout San Antonio. An educational video and social media material will be used to target the young adult audience.
Metro Health is also working with community partners to implement a Tobacco Use Survey to determine use of tobacco products.
“I am convinced we will see health benefits for generations thanks to this new ordinance,” said Dr. Colleen Bridger, Director, Metro Health. “But we couldn’t have done all this without the support of our partners, including the San Antonio Council on Alcohol and Drug Awareness, the American Heart Association, City Health, The Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, MD Anderson Cancer Center and the American Cancer Society.”
For more information about Tobacco 21, visit www.sanantonio.gov/tobacco21.
View and download the Tobacco 21 awareness video, “Tobacco: You #DontNeedIt Anyway,” here:
Google Drive Link