Texas Tobacco Laws
Tobacco may be a legal substance in Texas, but that does not give users free rein to smoke wherever or whenever they want. Like all states, Texas has tobacco laws that restrict the use of tobacco products – including cigarettes, vaporizers (vapes), and e-cigarettes. Obeying the laws in Texas is important as a smoker if you wish to avoid charges and penalties, such as fines or even jail time.
Legal Age Limit To Smoke in Texas
You must be 18 or older to use tobacco products in Texas. A state bill in 1997 made it unlawful to distribute cigarettes or other tobacco products to anyone younger than 18 years of age. Sellers must ask for proof of age before distributing tobacco products. It is a criminal offense to sell or distribute cigarettes or tobacco products to someone under 18, or to someone who intends to deliver it to someone under 18. Proof of age is a requirement to sell or distribute tobacco products to anyone under the age of 27. All retailers must also post warning signs.
The law also prohibits free samples or giveaways of tobacco products to those under 18, as well as the sale of kiddie packs, or packs of cigarettes with fewer than 20 per pack. It is also illegal to have a self-service or vending machine distributing tobacco products unless the establishment does not permit customers under 18 years old. Violating the state’s tobacco age limit could result in an administrative fine of $1,000 per violation. The minor could also face charges and up to $250 in fines.
Vaping Laws in Texas
E-cigarettes and vapes now have their own rules and restrictions in Texas, under Health and Safety Code Section 161.0001. The law states that manufacturers and distributors must sell liquid nicotine in child-safe containers as accessories for e-cigarettes. Those who sell or distribute vapes or e-cigarettes must first register with the state comptroller.
In 2015, Texas passed an additional bill to regulate the age range on electronic cigarette products. Under the law, an electronic cigarette uses a battery, electronic circuit, or mechanical heating element to deliver nicotine or other substances to the user via inhaling from the device. It is against the law to sell or distribute e-cigarettes to anyone younger than 18. The same proof of age as with standard cigarettes is a requirement for retailers.
If you use e-cigarettes or vaporizers, you cannot do so in elevators, schools, theaters, libraries, hospitals, museums, buses, trains, or planes – except in designated areas. It is unlawful for students to possess or use e-cigarettes at any school-related activity, on or off school property. It is also against the law for anyone to use these devices at childcare centers, playgrounds, and off-site field trips, as well as in vehicles transporting children.
Smoking Bans in Private Vehicles
Some states prohibit smoking tobacco in private vehicles if minors are present. The goal of these laws is to protect children from the health risks of breathing in secondhand smoke. Driving with minor passengers and smoking in these states could result in fines and other penalties. Others prohibit smoking and driving as a measure to prevent distracted driving, or to prevent wildfires. The following states have passed or are testing smoking bans in private vehicles: Arkansas, California, Louisiana, Maine, Oregon, Utah, Vermont, and Virginia.
2015 was the last time Texas lawmakers proposed a bill that would have made it illegal to smoke tobacco products in vehicles if small children were present. The bill did not pass, however. Tobacco Free Amarillo stood behind the bill, submitting a statement suggesting that the legislation would protect vulnerable children from cancer-causing chemicals in secondhand smoke. As of January 2019, lawmakers have the option to propose the bill once again. It is currently unknown whether lawmakers have plans to reintroduce it or not. For more information about tobacco laws in Texas, speak to a criminal defense lawyer in Houston today.