The fiscal note attached to the bill found that the measure would result in a loss of more than $30 million in general revenue funds. The Property Tax Relief Fund would lose $34 million, according to the Legislative Budget Board.
“That is a gross overestimation,” said Dr. Anandhi Ganesh, who testified in favor of the bill. The Legislative Budget Board estimated a 33 percent reduction in smoking as a result of the tobacco age being raised, but Ganesh cited a study of counties in Massachusetts that raised the smoking age and saw a reduction of 2 or 3 percent. Those parameters would result in a $4 million or $5 million loss in revenue, she said.
And other proponents said the bill could lower health care costs if the number of smokers decreases.
“Tobacco is the single largest preventable cause of cancer and death,” said Dr. Ernest Hawk of M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. “The impact of this bill is likely to be significant.”
A Department of State Health Services analysis found the state could save $406 million in health care costs over five years and nearly $5.6 billion over 25 years. The department also found that preterm births would be reduced by 11.6 percent over 20 years, although it acknowledged that it would take decades to see reductions in tobacco-related illnesses.
Hawk said his research found the bill would have the greatest impact on kids ages 15 to 17, with a possible 20 to 30 percent reduction is smoking among those ages.
If the legislation passes, Texas would be the third state to raise the smoking age over 19. Many Texans testified that they didn’t want to join the ranks of California and Hawaii.
“It’s totally OK for somebody at 18 to die for our country, but we’re going to stand here and criminalize nicotine use?” said William Thomas, whose son was advised to use low doses of nicotine therapeutically after serving in the military.
Vapor shop owners and others against the bill opposed the inclusion of e-cigarettes, which…