Maine Raises Smoking Age to 21 After Lawmakers Override Veto

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Maine will become the fourth state to raise the smoking age to 21 and will adopt stricter regulations on the sale of electronic cigarettes after lawmakers on Wednesday voted overwhelmingly to override the governor’s veto.

Gov. Paul R. LePage, a Republican, had called the bill an attempt to “social engineer our lives,” saying that if 18-year-olds can join the military and fight in wars, they should be allowed to decide on their own whether to use tobacco.

Senator Paul Davis, a Republican who wrote the bill, said the governor’s remarks showed that he had missed the point of the legislation.

“People who join the military don’t have 15-year-old kids following them around and being impressed by their actions,” Mr. Davis told reporters after the Senate’s vote on Wednesday. “It’s about the availability of cigarettes in schools.”

Starting in July, anyone under 21 will not be allowed to buy tobacco products in the state, which will join California, Hawaii and New Jersey as the only states to raise the age limit to 21, from 18. Maine’s new regulations will also apply to devices like e-cigarettes, which are popular among teenagers; hookah pipes; and smoking accessories.

In the last two decades, tobacco use among teenagers in Maine has dropped drastically, mirroring a similar decline across the country. But the state still ranks near the top for high schoolers who smoke cigarettes: In 2015, 11.2 percent of Maine high school students smoked, just above the national average of 10.8 percent, according to the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States, accounting for about 20 percent of all deaths.