Tobacco 21 advocates for raising the age to legally purchase tobacco 18 to 21. Credit: Courtesy / Tobacco 21 Campaign

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As an allergy, asthma, and immunology specialist, I see patients who are dealing with the negative effects of tobacco exposure on a daily basis. I’ve experienced firsthand how this impacts their quality of life, which is why I am a strong supporter of raising the age for legally purchasing tobacco from 18 to 21.

In my field, it is common knowledge that tobacco exposure is one of the top triggers for uncontrolled asthma, leading to higher rates of disease and death. Recently, I’ve seen a spike in tobacco exposure among adolescents through e-cigarettes. Most e-cigarette users are under the misconception that vaping is safer than smoking, but that is not the case. The chemicals in e-cigarettes cause similar damage to the lungs as those contained in traditional cigarettes.

This is even more worrisome because e-cigarettes are a relatively new phenomenon; we have yet to determine the full scope of long-term use effects on the body.

Some of my first experiences seeing the effects of tobacco use on the body came during my timing serving in the Air Force. I was part of the team that would perform health screening for basic trainees, assessing their respiratory and asthma status. The detrimental effects tobacco use had on our airmen’s health and fitness were obvious, which is why smoking is prohibited during basic training. The military is actively working to decrease tobacco use among our active-duty military in order to prevent deploying soldiers to areas where their lung status would decrease the chances of them coming back home safely to their families.

I support Tobacco 21 because increasing the legal age for purchasing tobacco products will decrease the number of young adults exposed to their negative consequences and help all San Antonians breathe a little easier.

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Dr. Erika Gonzalez-Reyes

Dr. Erika Gonzalez-Reyes is an allergy, asthma and immunology specialist. She completed her undergraduate education at St. Mary’s University here in San Antonio and received her medical degree from The...