Protecting our children from the dangers of cigarettes, e-cigarettes and tobacco is a vital task requiring constant awareness and continuous effort on the part of parents, state and local government officials, businesses and all Texans. Limiting minor's access to tobacco is an ongoing effort to prevent young people from a lifetime of tobacco addiction and possible disease and premature death.

In 1997 the 75th Texas Legislature passed SB55, codified in Health & Safety Code, Chapter 161: Texas Tobacco Law, one of the strongest and most comprehensive tobacco laws in the country. Aimed at reducing youth access to cigarettes and tobacco products, the law also provided for comprehensive public education regarding the dangers of tobacco use. The provisions of the law restricted sales, advertising, distribution/vending machines of cigarettes and tobacco products to minors, training requirements for persons selling cigarettes and tobacco products, and restricted the purchase, possession and use of cigarettes and tobacco products by minors. Provisions of the law included criminal penalties for violation of the law, along with a tobacco awareness program for minors violating the law.

In 2015, the 84th Texas Legislature passed SB97 updating the Texas tobacco law provisions of Health and Safety Code, Chapter 161 to include the regulation of the sale and distribution of e-cigarettes to minors at retail or by mail order, and the purchase, possession and use of e-cigarettes by minors. The provisions also defined an e-cigarette product as:

An electronic cigarette or any other device that simulates smoking by using a mechanical heating element, battery, or electronic circuit to deliver nicotine or other substance to the individual inhaling from the device; also includes e-cigar, or e-pipe, or under another product name or description, and includes a component, part, or accessory for the device, regardless of whether the component, part, or accessory is sold separately from the device.

SB97 also amended Chapter 38.006, Education Code to include e-cigarettes in tobacco-free school policies, and Chapter 48.01, Penal Code, to include the use e-cigarettes as a violation when used in primary and secondary schools, and in all public places such as elevator, enclosed theater or movie house, library, museum, hospital, transit system bus, intrastate bus, plane, or train.

As amended the Texas Tobacco Law is now the Texas Cigarette, E-Cigarette, and Tobacco Products Law. Texas law tolerates neither sellers nor buyers in transactions where underage consumers are concerned. To report a violation of the Texas Tobacco Law, call 1-800-345-8647.

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