Texas Raises the Legal Smoking Age to 21


Alex Huerta/ The JTAC

The new law will raise the legal age of tobacco product purchase and consumption to the age of 21 years old and went into effect on September 1, 2019.

On June 7, Governor Greg Abbott signed Senate Bill 21 to be put into law. The new law will raise the legal age of tobacco product purchase and consumption to the age of 21 years old and went into effect on September 1, 2019. The only exemption from this rule would be any person over the age of 18 and is part of the military. In addition to this, sale or provision of cigarettes, e-cigarettes, or tobacco products to anyone under the age of 18 will also be prohibited. If found guilty of purchase or consumption, a Class “C” Misdemeanor with a fine of up to $500 may be imposed. Being found in possession, or falsely representing yourself as an adult that is 21 or older is an offense and is punishable with a fine not to exceed $100.

There has been some confusion regarding the law and who it may affect. There may or may not be a grandfather clause that the law does not affect those born on and before August 31, 2001. University Police Chief, Matt Welch, had a response, “We think so. Those that sell tobacco are presenting it that way, but if you closely at the law, it only states that 18-year-olds in the military or state guard are exempted. It is being clarified and for now we are sticking to what you mentioned above in the interim.”

After a brief introduction to the new bill, what does this mean for rules in housing at Tarleton? After sitting down with Shelly Conboy-Brown, Director of Residence Life, we got an idea of what to expect with the new legislation and moving forward on how it will be handled with Residential Leaders and Residence Hall Directors. The first question that comes to mind with a 21+ tobacco law, how will housing handle violations? All RLs and RHDs receive manuals for their responses to incidents across campus and inside details how to react to different types of situations. The response to tobacco has now been put under Illegal Substances with things like alcohol and marijuana or other drugs and will be handled with the first step, “UPD will be contacted or notified for every situation where illegal substance is present or has been consumed.” What UPD decides to do after coming into contact with the incident is up to them. In any incident like this, an e-mail will be expected from Judicial Affairs.

When asked about expectations of RLs, aged 18-21, being held to and uphold the same standard as the residents they are watching over, Shelly responded, “I don’t know… for example, I’m a pet lover but if I have work and I live in an environment with regulations, I realize that it would be very inappropriate for me to sneak a pet into the building, as a leader within that neighborhood. It would also be very inappropriate for me to walk on by and not enforce or hold someone accountable for the regulation in that neighborhood despite the fact that personally, I might really love pets… and I look at it as very similar to that.”

Currently, all residence halls and all sporting events are smoke-free and all dining areas smoke and tobacco-free. As well as 50 feet within all building entrances and vehicles owned or leased under the Tarleton president’s administration. The president also has the wish to approve any move to expand the restrictions on the tobacco use on university property. The university itself intends to implement a full tobacco-free campus by the Fall of 2020.

In the case that students are struggling with a nicotine addiction and are seeking resources, the Health Center can assist these students. You can reach the Health Center through the online Tarleton website or by phone at 254-968-9271. The counseling center is also a resource on campus to assist any students and connect them with other resources, if there’s a need the office can be reached at 254-968-9044.