The Young Conservatives of Texas chapter at Texas A&M University-Commerce held a “smoke out” on Friday, aiming to inform students of Texas SB 21, which the group is protesting against.
SB 21 was signed into law by Governor Greg Abbott on June 7 and goes into effect on Sunday. The bill raises the age to purchase tobacco products from 18 to 21, excluding members of the military. This law also covers e-cigarettes as well, which have grown in popularity this decade.
Anyone not yet age 21 but born before Aug. 31, 2001 are grandfathered in and will still be permitted to purchase tobacco products.
Tyler Tonko, the president of the A&M-Commerce chapter of the Young Conservatives of Texas, says that while the group understands the risks of smoking, they believe that the bill’s passage sets a bad precedent for government overreach.
“We are not a pro-smoking organization, but we are a pro-good legislation organization,” Tonko said. “Raising the buying age doesn’t stop people from getting it. There is an underage drinking culture that starts in high school and goes to college, it doesn’t make a change to make it illegal.”
Tonko added that the bill inherently requires a “bigger government” to be able to police the new law, which goes against the Young Conservative’s ideas, which Tonko described as Libertarian.
“This goes against YCT’s morals of not letting governments overreach,” Tonko said. “It seems pretty unorthodox for conservatives to be against something like this, but I think it’s important to get YCT out there and show that we are different than other conservative organizations.”
The protestors stood outside of the Austin AG/ET Building at A&M-Commerce Friday afternoon, with one sign stating “Come and Take It” over an image of a cigarette, evoking imagery of the famous flag that flew over the Battle of Gonzales during the Texas Revolution.
Several students stopped by to talk to the Young Conservatives about the bill, and there were mixed opinions.
“I feel like you should be able to make the decision [at age 18] if you want to use tobacco products,” said Darion Foster, a student at A&M-Commerce. “I don’t feel like this is right, at all.”
“I have mixed feelings about it, I understand both sides,” said student Evans Dennis. “I feel like 18 year olds shouldn’t be buying it, but at the same time I feel like they should have the right to decide. I’m on the fence about it.”
For a list of all laws that go into effect on Sept. 1, visit https://bit.ly/2Leaz04.