San Antonio’s Higher Tobacco Age in Effect

The city is the first in Texas to raise the tobacco purchase age to 21.

October 03, 2018

SAN ANTONIO – On Monday, San Antonio became the first Texas city to impose a minimum purchase age of 21 for all tobacco products, including chewing tobacco, electronic smoking products, cigars, cigarettes and hookah tobacco, Texas Public Radio reports. The ordinance will not fine or cite people younger than 21 for possession of tobacco.

The law only affects retailers within the city limits. That’s something that Anwar Tahir, a c-store owner and president of the Association of Convenience Store Retailers, is concerned about. Part of the problem stems from the overlap between San Antonio city limits and nearby localities. For example, San Antonio and Windcrest are separated by a mere city block, so a convenience store on one side of the street can’t sell tobacco to those under 21, while the retailer across the street can.

“We still support this law. I’d love to have this law, but it has to be statewide,” Tahir said. “[The under-21 customer is] not just going to just buy a cigar there and come back to my store and get gas or other stuff.”

“These types of ordinances create an unfair playing field for our retailers,” Jesus Azanza, director of communications and marketing for the Texas Food & Fuel Association (TFFA), told NACS Daily. Azanza’s group worked with the Association of Convenience Store Retailers to try to block the ordinance. During the next legislative session, TFFA will be talking with legislators about crafting a bill that would prevent localities from passing similar ordinances.

San Antonio retailers have a three-month grace period to acclimate to the new ordinance. Currently, there are six states with a minimum tobacco-buying age of 21: California, Maine, Hawaii, New Jersey, Oregon and Rhode Island.