A bill prohibiting Mainers below age 21 from purchasing tobacco products will soon become law.
The Senate voted 29-5 and the House voted 90-44 to override Gov. Paul LePage’s veto of the proposal, which supporters say will lower smoking rates and smoking-related deaths.
Republican state Sen. Eric Brakey warned that passing the bill would force young adults to seek to purchase the products illegally.
“We will see cigarettes becoming a product of the black market, sold by black market drug dealers who are selling more than just cigarettes and attracting new clients to their harder products,” he said.
Republican state Sen. Brian Langley of Ellsworth, whose mother died of lung cancer, pushed back against opponents.
“And I think her freedom to quit had been robbed from her at a very early age of when she started to smoke,” he said.
Proponents of the bill said it would prevent smoking deaths because about 95 percent of adults who smoke started by the age of 21. And a report circulated by the American Lung Association fund that increasing the legal age could prevent over 223,000 premature deaths of people born between 2000 and 2019.
In his veto letter, 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.
The amended version of the bill exempts people already 18-20 years old and implementation is delayed until July 2018.