Senate Bill 21 raises legal smoking age, sets precedent

West Campus is a haven of nicotine addiction. It’s an area where JUUL pod caps line the curbsides and sharing a cigarette with friends is a common after-party ritual. In light of recent legislation, however, things may look a little different in the coming years. 

On Sept. 1, Senate Bill 21 went into effect. The bill bans the purchase of tobacco and nicotine products by anyone under the age of 21, with the exception of those who are 18 prior to the bill’s effective date. This means that the majority of UT students, excluding a few freshmen with early birthdays, will be able to continue purchasing tobacco products and their electric alternatives. 

Why care? Well, this bill sets a precedent for Texas legislation. With SB 21, Texas joined 17 other states that have raised the smoking age to 21. Several states, such as California, are contemplating legislation raising already-high taxes on smoking products.

Most notably, the bill was passed just weeks before the President Donald Trump’s announcement that the Food and Drug Administration will seek to ban flavored e-cigarette products. Although preliminary, such a drastic step is possible. 

The rise of a potentially fatal lung condition linked to vaping, increased concerns about flavored products’ youth appeal and several states’ anti-tobacco and nicotine legislation would render such a ban plausible, even easy. 

In this week’s forum, UT students and faculty weigh in on SB 21’s potential effects. 

English junior Robert Mayers describes his experience with nicotine products and their enduring place in campus culture, arguing that the new legislation could harm students with nicotine dependence who aren’t covered by the bill’s grandfather clause. 

Alexander Prokhorov, director of the Youth and Family Cancer Prevention Program and Tobacco Outreach Education Program at The University of Texas-MD Anderson Cancer Center, explains why SB 21 is a victory and cautions students to curb nicotine and tobacco use.

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