Citizens for Clean Air in Apartments

Health Advocates Question Whether Youth Penalties Are Working In Texas
Fourteen months ago, Texas made it illegal for minors to possess tobacco. The penalty for being caught is a fine up to $250 and attendance at a day-long tobacco-awareness class or community service.

The Houston Chronicle reports that of the 1,437 Houston minors cited for possession of tobacco since January 1, 1998, 991 didn't even show up in court.

Minors who fail to come to court or skip the awareness class can have their drivers licenses suspended for up to 180 days and have a warrant issued for their arrest once they turn 18.

Public health advocates are questioning whether a Texas law that makes possession of tobacco by minors a crime is discouraging teenage tobacco consumption.

"We like to promote things that work," said Dr. Donald Sharp, a medical epidemiologist with the Center for Disease Control's Office on Smoking and Health.

"There is no evidence this works." Municipal Court Judge David Fraga is also unsure if the law is effective. "It appears that it's making young people conscious of it because they're aware of losing their license. As for the health issue, I can't tell you."

ASSOCIATED PRESS, (3/22/99) "Tobacco Law's Effect Questioned"

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