Council Votes 9-2 to Approve Ban on Sale of Cigarettes to People Under 21

After hearing speaker after speaker speak out in support of a measure to ban the sale of cigarettes to anybody under 21, San Antonio City Council today approved the law, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.

The vote was 9-2, with Greg Brockhouse and Clayton Perry voting no.

Students like Rhianna Fernandez were among those who spoke out in support of the measure.  She says she has talked with teenagers in cities where similar laws are in place.

"It has worked, and it has definitely made a change," she said.  "I think three years can make a tremendous difference in whether a teenager will take up a habit for the rest of their life."

Businessman Brad Weaver told an intensely personal story about how cigarettes have affected his life.

"My dad start smoking when he was in high school, and soon he became a two pack a day smoker," Weaver said.  "One day I walked in and found him slumped over, and he told me, 'go get your mom,' and that was the last thing I heard from my dad."

Dr. Colleen Bridger, the Metro Health Director who came up with the proposal, says implementation will be delayed until October.  That is so suburbs and Bexar County can pass similar laws.  Many retailers are concerned that, with San Antonio standing alone, people between the ages of 18 and 20 will simply drive into the suburbs and buy smokes.

Dr. Bridger says retailers will be inspected at random and retailers can get a $500 fine for every illegal sale.  The 18 to 20 year olds will not face fines, nor will the underaged kids who may receive cigarettes from the 18 to 20 year olds.

But she says this will go a long ways toward stopping 15 top 17 year olds, who are more likely to take up smoking, from ever starting.

"Two percent of cigarettes are purchased by 18, 19, and 20 year olds," she said.  "But they in turn supply 90 percent of tobacco products to our kids in high school and middle school."

The proposal got the support of the Chamber of Commerce, the American Cancer Society, and other groups.

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