AUGUSTA, Maine — A bill that would raise the minimum legal age to buy tobacco products to 21 received a strong endorsement Thursday morning in the Maine Senate.
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Paul Davis, R-Sangerville, was initially supported 31-4 and then amended so that anyone who is at least 18 years old as of July 1, 2018, can buy tobacco products, with the practical effect being that the law wouldn’t be fully in effect until those people turn 21 in 2021. In addition to tobacco products, the bill would apply to electronic smoking devices.
The bill only affects the legal purchasing age. Smoking would remain legal for people who are at least 18 years old. Only two other states, Hawaii and California, set their tobacco-buying age at 21, though there are some 225 municipalities across the United States that do, according to the American Lung Association. As of 2016, Portland became one of them.
Proponents of the bill argue that it would reduce access to tobacco by high school students.
The amended version of the bill received unanimous support in the Senate and now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration. It faces more votes in both bodies.
However, the bill’s cost could be its undoing. The fiscal note estimates a reduction in cigarette tax revenue to the state’s General Fund by $3.6 million next year and $4.7 million the following year, though Davis has offered an amendment that cuts the fiscal impact down to about $106,000 in the second year of the biennium.