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I’m a senior in high school here in San Antonio and a strong supporter of raising the tobacco age from 18 to 21. I spoke on behalf of the Tobacco 21 to members of the San Antonio City Council on Dec. 6, urging them to support this important ordinance.

I am almost 18 years old, so I’m still really young. Most 18-year-olds like myself are in high school. If they’re able to legally purchase tobacco products, what do you think they will do next? I can tell you that they’ll probably either sell or share them with the other kids at school – who are 15, 16, and 17 years old. Consider that a 21-year-old likely will not hang out with younger high school kids, which would reduce the access that 15-, 16-, 17-, and even 18-year-olds have to tobacco products.

Advertising in movies, magazines, and social media encourages kids to think that smoking is cool. What those kids don’t realize is that when you smoke, you’re slowly killing yourself and possibly those around you with secondhand smoke. There are so many different kinds of cancers and diseases that can be prevented – COPD, lung cancer, throat cancer, stomach cancer, heart disease, and stroke – to name a few, have all been directly linked to using tobacco products.

More than 5.6 million children are expected to die prematurely due to smoking-related diseases. Do you think 18-year-olds make decisions based on how those choices will affect them decades down the road and for rest of their life? I turn 18 in four months; I don’t have the desire to try smoking, but not all kids my age are like me.

Raising the minimum age to purchase tobacco products would ultimately save lives and cut medical costs. Currently, five states and more than 280 localities have adopted policies to raise the age from 18 to 21. More than 25 percent of Americans already live in a state or community where the minimum legal sale age for tobacco products is 21. When I spoke to City Council, I urged our leaders to make San Antonio the first city in Texas to do the same and take a major step in protecting its young citizens.

Join me in support of Tobacco 21 by writing to your City Council representative and urging them to vote yes on Jan. 11. You can find out who your City Council representative is here.

You can also rally with us when City Council votes on Tobacco 21 on Jan. 11 at 9 a.m. in the City Council Chambers on the first floor of the Municipal Plaza Building.

Kayleigh Stubbs is a San Antonio high school senior. She is an active member of the San Antonio Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse (SACADA) and plans to attend a local college after graduation.