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Tobacco

Legal Age to Purchase Tobacco Rises in Maine

July 1 start date sets off numerous issues for retailers, association says

AUGUSTA, Maine -- On July 1, the legal age to purchase tobacco products in Maine rose from 18 to 21, following a rule change that lawmakers approved about a year ago.

While only time will tell how the new law will affect c-store sales in the state, at least one association executive is calling the law a “headache” for retailers.

The new rule, which applies to electronic cigarettes as well as combustible cigarettes and other tobacco products (OTP), raises the legal buying age from 18 to 21, but it will not affect people who are 18 as of June 30, 2018, said Jamie Py, president & CEO of the Maine Energy Marketers Association, Brunswick, Maine.

“Our licensing bureau has not done a great job advertising the change nor providing signage,” Py told CSP Daily News. “So smaller stores have had to make signs and retrain clerks on their own.”

Py is also concerned about stores near the border with New Hampshire, where the legal age to purchase tobacco products is still 18. “This is another blow … as Maine has higher gas taxes, cigarette taxes and a 5.5% sales tax, while New Hampshire has no sales tax,” Py said. “There is a reason why New Hampshire has two on-highway liquor stores on the 14-mile stretch of I-95 heading into Maine.”

Supporters of the law said it saves lives. “The ages of 18 to 21 are a critical period when many people who smoke move from experimental smoking to regular, daily use,” said Hilary Schneider, director of government relations for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network’s Maine division.

In an interview with WMTW News 8, Schneider said, “Adolescents’ brains are more susceptible to the effects of nicotine and nicotine addiction. Delaying the age when young people first experiment with or begin using tobacco can reduce the risk that they will become addicted—and this reduces the likelihood they will develop many serious diseases, including cancer.”

Maine is one of five states to raise the legal age to purchase tobacco products to 21, along with California, Hawaii, New Jersey and Oregon. Illinois is on the verge of becoming the sixth state to take such action.

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