Saturday, April 04, 2009

Nineteen is Enough Says State Senator Uresti

This past week SB 1049 was voted out of the Texas Senate’s Health and Human Services Committee with a vote of 9 Ayes and 0 Nos. The bill, authored by State Senator Carlos Uresti, and co-authored by John Carona, Chuy Hinojosa, Joan Huffman and Jane Nelson, changes Section 161.081 of the states Health and Safety Code by crossing out the number 18, and replacing it with the number 19.

The bill would raise the legal age to buy tobacco products in the state of Texas by one year.

Senator Uresti, in filing the bill last February, had this to say:

“SB 1049 will remove the opportunity for underage tobacco consumption by raising the tobacco purchasing age to 19. Studies from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate that sixty percent of teen smokers get their cigarettes from older friends and siblings. There are many high school students who are legally able to purchase tobacco products, and these students are in a position to provide tobacco products to their underage peers in school.”

“Ninety percent of all adult smokers begin smoking while they are in their teens. Studies indicate that the longer we keep teens from smoking, the fewer adult smokers we will have in the future. This bill is good public health policy, and it is an excellent health promotion tool for our youth”

Senator Uresti noted that tobacco-related illnesses contribute to $5.83 billion dollars in Texas health care costs per year, and $1.6 billion of those costs are borne by the State's Medicaid system.

One argument against this legislation has surfaced. That an 18-year old who is old enough to fight and die in war, should be old enough to poison him- or herself by intentionally inhaling carcinogens.

Phillip Morris, which has a stake in getting American teens hooked on their product, has kept mum about this, probably because they are too busy getting millions of others addicted to their product in Asia.

Uresti et al. have taken a good first step toward ending the disease of tobacco addiction in our time, but unfortunately this bill does not go far enough.

I have a modest suggestion. To this number, 19, add another number. Add another “1.” Let’s call a spade a spade, huh? This is an addictive material that is ultimately lethal. There is no sane reason to take up the habit.

Uresti’s reasoning runs that if the state can prevent an 18 year old from buying tobacco for yet another year, their brains will mature enough so that fewer of them will ultimately make the wrong health and lifestyle choice.

I say add a “1.” Make it legal for 119 year-old people to buy tobacco products.

Heck, if they lived that long, they deserve to treat themselves to a little suicidal behavior now and then, don’t they?

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