A petition signed by convenience store owners was not enough to thwart the Portland City Council’s efforts to increase the city’s minimum age to purchase tobacco products.
A unanimous vote by the Portland City Council has made Portland the first city in Maine to raise the minimum age to buy tobacco products from 18 to 21.
According to a report from the Portland Press Herald, on Monday, June 20, the City Council voted to adopt the new law, which was sponsored by councilor Edward Suslovic, chair of the Health and Human Services Committee. The new law is scheduled to take effect in 30 days.
The Press Herald reported that Suslovic said only that he wished the city had made this change sooner and that he hopes the city can convince the surrounding towns to follow suit with the change. Before the vote on Monday, the Council heard volunteers from the American Cancer Society and local students speak in favor of the new order. The Press Herald also reported that no one spoke in opposition of the law, but the Council was presented with a petition signed by a number of convenience store owners whose businesses sell tobacco products who were in opposition of the ordinance.
One smoke shop owner, Ken Nagle, told the Press Herald that the policy is anti-business, and that it is an example of government over-reach, as it infringed on personal liberties. Nagle, who owns Cigaret Shopper, expressed concern that the new law may be harmful to business.
In response to the store owners who fear the effects of the new law, Suslovic stated that they should consider the fact that CVS has not sold tobacco products since February 2014, and the company is not hurting, rather it is looking to expand in the area, the Press Herald reported.
Portland now joins the 135 other communities that have increased the minimum age to purchase tobacco products across the country. According to the Press Herald, in May, California became the first state to initiate a statewide increase, and Suslovic has announced that he hopes Maine will follow suit.