AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER Maine) — Maine has joined just a handful of other states to raise the legal age to buy tobacco to 21.
Maine joins Hawaii, California, New Jersey, and Oregon to ban 18, 19, and 20-year-olds from buying cigarettes which took effect Sunday, July 1.
Gov. Paul LePage called the bill an attempt at “social engineering.”
Both the Senate and the House voted to override Governor Paul LePage’s veto of the bill, which supporters say will lower smoking rates and they hope smoking-related deaths.
Republican state Sen. Eric Brakey warned that passing the bill would force young adults to seek to purchase the products illegally while proponents of the bill have argued it will prevent smoking deaths.
A report circulated by the American Lung Association says increasing the legal age could prevent over 223,000 premature deaths of people born between 2000 and 2019.
In his veto letter, Gov. LePage said he can’t support a bill that denies legal adults from purchasing a legal product. He also argued that the bill would hurt Maine grocery and convenience stores.
LePage has said in the past that he thinks if a person is old enough to serve in the military, they are old enough to decide to smoke.
The amended version of the bill exempts people already 18-20 years old and implementation is delayed until July 2018.
Data shows that 95 percent of adults who smoke began so before they turned 21 years-old.