AUSTIN, Texas -- Texas is poised to become the latest state to keep tobacco out of the hands of teens.

  • House voted to raise the legal smoking age to 21
  • Awaiting final approval
  • Heads to Senate next

The Texas House voted Tuesday to raise the legal smoking age from 18 to 21. If it becomes law, Texas would be the 14th state to raise the age to legally buy tobacco. 

"The effort with this bill to move the age to 21 is to actually move the cigarettes away, the tobacco products, the e-cigarettes which are rampant, away from our schools," said Rep. John Zerwas, R-Richmond.  

The age restriction would apply to products such as cigarettes and e-cigarettes, but would exempt military personnel from the rules. A change added Tuesday also keeps local governments from being able to preempt state law.

Supporters say it’s about saving lives. Critics counter with the idea that when you're 18 years old you are an adult that can make adult decisions.

"If they're responsible enough to vote for you or I, they're responsible enough to smoke a cigarette or a cigar," said Rep. Tony Tinderhold, R-Arlington. 

But Charlie Gagen with the American Cancer Society said this is a victory for public health. 

"Tobacco remains the leading cause of preventable death and preventable cancer in Texas and nationwide," said Gagen.  

Rep. Zerwas added the bill won't be a cure-all, but it could help cut down on addiction at an early age.

"A lot of peer pressures that go on during that period of time," said Zerwas.  

The bill now awaits final approval in the House before it heads back to the Senate. If the Senate accepts the House’s changes, the legislation would head to the governor’s desk.