University of Houston HLPI

Texas Smoke-Free Ordinance Database

Background and Resources

Tobacco Regulation in the United States

Tobacco is regulated by federal, state, and local governments. Federal law sets the minimum standards applicable in all 50 states. States can enact additional regulations so long as the regulations do not conflict with federal law. Where federal and state law do conflict, federal law typically supersedes state law due to the Supremacy Clause in the United States Constitution, which makes clear that federal law is the supreme law of the land. Similarly, local governments can enact additional regulations so long as the regulations do not conflict with state or federal law. Each layer of government regulates tobacco companies and their products in slightly different ways.

This system of laws is designed to prevent or diminish the adverse health effects associated with tobacco use while still permitting adults access to and freedom to use tobacco products. The following is a general, non-exhaustive description of the legal framework governing tobacco manufacturing, products, and sales in the United States.

Federal Regulation

The federal government primarily regulates tobacco products through the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Under authority granted to the agency by the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act of 2009, the agency establishes manufacturing and product standards. These regulations protect the public from adulterated and misbranded tobacco products, require disclosure of certain health information, and safeguard the reliability of tobacco product manufacturing processes.

Other federal agencies also exercise authority over the tobacco industry. For example, the Federal Trade Commission protects consumers from deceptive industry practices, regulates unfair methods of competition, and ensures the efficiency of the market.

State Regulation

Texas regulates tobacco companies and products through the Texas Education Code, Health and Safety Code, Labor Code, Penal Code, and Tax Code.

Through the Education Code, the state prohibits possession and use of tobacco and e-cigarettes at school-sanctioned events.

Through the Health and Safety Code, the state establishes a minimum age for the purchase of tobacco products and e-cigarettes (21 years old), coordinates local enforcement of the minimum smoking age, regulates tobacco advertisement, promotes public education programs about the health effects of tobacco use, requires public disclosure of additive ingredients in tobacco products, regulates delivery sales of tobacco products, and establishes fees for certain tobacco product manufacturers to recover health care costs to the state imposed by manufacturers who were not part of the historic tobacco settlement.

Through the Labor Code, the state sets workplace safety standards that apply to the tobacco production and sales pipeline.

Through the Penal Code, the state provides criminal penalties for the use of tobacco products in schools, elevators, enclosed theaters, libraries, museums, hospitals, buses, planes, or trains. The state also provides a criminal penalty for the sale of tobacco products that do not comply with federal or state law.

Through the Tax Code, the state imposes taxes on the tobacco industry and its products. The funds raised from these taxes are used for a variety of state initiatives.

Local Regulation

The local governments of Texas vary in their levels of tobacco regulation, but many municipalities prohibit smoking in public places to some degree. These local ordinances complement state regulations and protect public health by ensuring a smoke-free environment in common spaces.

The Texas Smoke-Free Ordinance Database tracks the passage and coverage of Texas municipal smoke-free ordinances.

Please see the links below for helpful resources related to identifying Texas municipal smoking ordinances. If you have additional questions or would like information about advocating for smoking restrictions in your municipality, please contact the Texas Department of State Health Services Tobacco Prevention and Control Program or your local Public Health Region.
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