Cayla Wilson and her late grandfather (left). Credit: Courtesy / Cayla Wilson

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I became part of the fight against tobacco because of the negative effects smoking has had on my life. I’m only 16 years old and have never smoked, but I’ve seen it hurt people I love. My grandmother and grandfather both started smoking when they were younger. My grandmother now has throat cancer and my grandfather passed away due to his tobacco use. That’s why I’ve become active in the fight to raise the tobacco age from 18 to 21 in our city.

I’m not yet old enough to buy tobacco products legally, but I already know plenty of kids my age who regularly use tobacco products. It goes beyond smoking cigarettes. I have classmates who regularly vape and dip. It doesn’t matter if you aren’t 18 years old yet – Tobacco products are easily accessible in high school.

There is still a lot of peer pressure around smoking in high school, especially now with e-cigarettes, but most people don’t realize the consequences. I don’t think anyone in high school starts smoking, vaping, or dipping with the intention of continuing that habit for the rest of their life, but for an overwhelming majority that will be the case. Statistics show that 95 percent of adult smokers started before they were 21, with three out of four teen smokers becoming regular tobacco users.

The tobacco industry takes advantage of the fact that teenagers tend to not think about how the decisions they make will affect the rest of their lives. The tobacco companies know they need to get kids hooked early, because their future profits depend on it. That means if kids don’t start smoking before they’re 21, they’re almost certainly never going to start.

This means that the passing a Tobacco 21 law will lead to fewer smokers. Fewer smokers means a healthier environment for everyone. Those who might have smoked won’t suffer from the negative consequences of tobacco products, and the rest of us will have cleaner air to breathe, because there will be less secondhand smoke. San Antonio has the opportunity to be the first city in Texas to raise the tobacco age and set the trend for many others to follow.

I support Tobacco 21 because it will help keep tobacco out of high schools, lead to fewer addicted smokers and eventually fewer grandparents lost too soon. Learn more about how you can support Tobacco 21, click here.

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Cayla Wilson

Cayla Wilson is a 16-year-old high school student in San Antonio. She is actively involved in the youth development and mentoring organization 4H, volunteers at a local veterinary clinic, and is a Tobacco...