The Coalition recently held its annual Drug-Free Business Partnership luncheon to recognize businesses in the community that value drug-, alcohol- and tobacco-free workplaces.

The luncheon featured Jennifer Cofer, director of the EndTobacco Program at MD Anderson, as the keynote speaker. Cofer updated the audience on the continuing ill effects of tobacco use, including the 26.9 percent of cancer deaths that are attributable to tobacco use and the $8.85 billion annual healthcare expenditures in Texas related to smoking.

Speaking about the use of e-cigarettes by the nation’s youth, Cofer said 95 percent of current smokers started smoking before the age of 21.

“If we can delay the age when people first use tobacco, we can significantly reduce the number of adult smokers,’’ she said. ‘‘Research from the Institute of Medicine predicts that raising the sale of tobacco from 18 to 21 would reduce the smoking rate by 12 percent and would result in 223,000 fewer premature deaths from tobacco-related diseases.”

The Coalition also recognized several businesses in attendance for their continued commitment to drug-free workplaces and special recognition was given to the Drug-Free Business Partnership’s new and upgraded members.

For the past 25 years, The Coalition has focused on eliminating the use of harmful substances by affecting public policy, laws, attitudes and behaviors, all in an effort to foster healthy lifelong choices for the community.

The Coalition is one of the oldest substance abuse prevention community coalitions in the United States.

For more information on raising the sale age of tobacco from 18 to 21, visittexas21.org. For information about participating in the Drug-Free Business Partnership, contact The Coalition at 634-9308.