Menthol cigarettes for sale at a convenience store.
Photograph by Joe Raedle — Getty Images
By Chris Morris
August 3, 2017

Over the strenuous objections of the governor, Maine has become the fourth U.S. state to raise the legal smoking age to 21. The state’s House and Senate voted Wednesday to override a veto from Gov. Paul LePage.

Opponents of the bill had raised concerns that raising the age from 18 would create a black market for cigarettes, that could lead to drug abuse.

“We will see cigarettes becoming a product of the black market, sold by black market drug dealers who are selling more than just cigarettes and attracting new clients to their harder products,” said Republican state Sen. Eric Brakey.

The governor’s objections were more centered on restricting the rights of adults and the impact on the state’s grocery and convenience stores.

The bill, which goes into effect July 1, 2018, will see Maine join Hawaii, California and New Jersey in requiring buyers of tobacco products to be 21. Over 250 cities and localities throughout the country have similar laws on the books, including Chicago, Boston and San Francisco.

Teen smoking has been a rising source of concern among healthcare officials. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 5.6 million of today’s Americans younger than 18 will die early from a smoking-related illness unless changes are made to the current smoking rate. That works out to roughly 1 of every 13 Americans aged 17 years or younger.

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