Maine Raises Legal Smoking Age To 21

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As the Food and Drug Administration considers lowering the level of nicotine in cigarettes to reduce the likelihood of addiction, some states and cities have taken it upon themselves to discourage smoking at a young age. This week, Maine joined New Jersey, California, and Hawaii to raise the minimum legal smoking age to 21. 

The Portland Press Herald reports that the Maine senate voted 29-5, while the House voted 90-44 to override Gov. Paul LePage’s veto of a bill increasing the legal age for purchasing tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, hookah pipes, and other smoking accessories.

Under the new law, which takes effect in July, Maine residents under 21 won’t be able to purchase cigarettes and other tobacco products. However, those who turn 18 prior to the July implementation will be grandfathered in, allowing them to purchase the products.

The Arguments

While the lawmakers easily voted to override LePage’s veto, many still fought against the age increase.

Those opposed to the law argued that 18-year-olds can be criminally charged as adults, can vote, and can join the military.

“We are picking an arbitrary number, 21 – well why not 25, why not 45, why not 70 or why not simply outlaw tobacco?” House Minority Leader Ken Fredette said.

However, another lawmaker argued that the state had recently voted on a measure making it illegal to purchase marijuana before someone turns 21. The legal drinking age is also 21.

Those in favor of the age increase pointed to studies that suggest smoking at an earlier age leads to addiction and that raising the age for tobacco makes people less likely to purchase the products, the Press Herald reports.