Maine Raises Its Smoking Age

By: - July 3, 2018 12:00 am

Maine has joined four other states in barring the sale of cigarettes to people under 21. Massachusetts may be joining five other states in barring the sale of cigarettes to people under 21. The Associated Press

Maine is now the fifth state that has boosted the legal age to buy cigarettes to 21.

A new law that took effect this week prohibits the sale of tobacco products to anyone under 21. The law does not apply, however, to those who turned 18 as of July 1, as they were grandfathered in.

The Maine Legislature passed the measure last year after overriding a veto by Republican Gov. Paul LePage, but the law didn’t go into effect until now.

Hawaii and California were the first states to enact laws raising the smoking age, followed by New Jersey and Oregon.

In most states, the legal age to buy tobacco products is 18; in a few it is 19.

Supporters say raising the legal age to 21 will save lives and cut medical costs for states. Opponents say it would hurt small businesses, reduce tax revenue and violate the personal freedom of young adults who are legally able to vote and join the military.

In the last several years, a growing number of local governments have taken action on their own to hike the legal age to 21.

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Jenni Bergal

Jenni Bergal covers transportation, infrastructure and cybersecurity for Stateline. She has been a reporter at Kaiser and the Center for Public Integrity.