AUSTIN,Texas (FOX 7 Austin) - Its estimated that every year more than 10,000 children start using a tobacco product, even though it’s against the law to sell it to them.
Monday the Senate State Affairs Committee considered legislation to address the problem filed by Houston Republican Joan Huffman.
"Every day more than 300 children become regular daily smokers. National data shows more than 95%, 95% of adult smokers began smoking before they turned 21,” said Sen. Huffman.
The hearing began with M.D. Anderson Cancer Center Specialist Dr. Ernest Hawk. In his testimony Dr. Hawk told the committee, that increasing the age restriction by three years will save lives.
"For every three young people who are prevented from smoking by increasing the legal age of sale, there will be one less smoking related death in the future, 3 to 1,” said Dr. Hawk.
SB 21 would increase the Minimum Legal Age restriction from 18 to 21. If passed, Texas would join eight other states that have a similar MLA. There were those at the hearing who consider the Bill to be government over-reach.
"I ask you strongly consider that this Bill is not the solution to the problem. Becoming a Nanny State or All Watching Village is not the direction Liberty loving Texans want to go,” said Terry Harper who was among those opposed to SB 21.
The hearing was not limited to just the traditional sale of tobacco products. It shifted in tone somewhat to include the new technology of e- cigarettes.
"If we are going to put a regulation and move it to a different age when you can purchase these products we should look at the number 19 instead of 21,” said Jason Tamplin.
Along with offering that compromise- Jason Tamplin - who owns a vape store in Fort Worth had another idea. He suggested mass produced e- cigarettes sold with high levels of nicotine- should be the target for lawmakers.
"Vape in general is not the problem product, it’s the small pod systems, that are easy to high, it’s the nicotine strengths that give the kids the buzz, right, get rid of the problem products and then we actually move the needle and I think other states will also follow us if we did that,” said Tamplin.
Advocates for SB 21 agree electronic devices with small caps called pods are a problem. One pod has the equilivant nicotine of a pack of cigarettes, according to Steve Ross with Texans Standing Tall.
Ross expects the FDA will regulate nicotine concentrations. But even if that happens he believes a new state age restriction is still needed.
"Let’s protect the youth, lets protect the youth and make it 21, let the FDA and everybody else do their science, and find out exactly what is going on, but until we do know that why take a chance on getting young people getting addicted to a very serious problem."
A representative with a tobacco retail group, Kathleen Russell, requested an Amendment. Russell suggested if SB 21 moves forward it should prevent local communities from increasing the age limit beyond 21.
Last year the city of San Antonio passed an ordinance that set the age for tobacco sales at 21.