Tobacco cigarette

A group of San Antonio small business owners are upset about the move to raise the smoking age from 18 to 21, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.

"The city needs to understand that this will impact the economy.  They will lose revenue," Anwar Tahir, president of the Association of Convenience Store Retailers, tells Newsradio 1200 WOAI.

While the city has tried to frame the smoking debate as one of public health, it's hard to escape the economic consequences.  Metro Health Director Dr. Colleen Bridger admits, this will cut sales, but she feels it will be infinitesimal "Sales to 18, 19 and 20 years olds represent about two percent of their tobacco sales," she says.

But Tahir, who runs three convenience stores, says smokers will not make two trips.  Instead of stopping at one store to get gas and another in the suburbs, they'll buy everything outside of the San Antonio city limits.  And that, he says, will have a much bigger impact than two percent.

"It will not stop people who are addicted," he says.

San Antonio's city council is moving forward with the plan, and a final vote could come as early as next week.

Tahir says the public health leaders are trying to ram it through without thinking of the consequences.  He says, on top of his sales, it will hurt the tourism industry.

"It's a tourist town. People come here.  If someone is smoking at the age of 18, 19 or 20, will they issue a citation for him?" he wonders.