On June 20, Portland became Maine’s first municipality to take the next step to keep all harmful tobacco products out of the hands of our children. Portland City Council unanimously agreed to an ordinance change that will raise the age to purchase tobacco to 21. American Heart Association volunteers like Richard Veilleux (Maine Board Chair) and Sarah Porter led the advocacy effort to get this done. This ordinance will significantly reduce the number of teenagers and young adults who start smoking cigarettes, e-cigarettes, cigars and hookah, or using chewing tobacco. 90% of those who provide cigarettes to younger teens are under the age of 21.
Tobacco use is still the leading cause of preventable death in Maine, and across the country. Nearly 1,000 Maine kids become daily smokers each year—setting up their developing brains for a lifetime of addiction. We need to do all we can to reduce the toll of tobacco.
The American Heart Association volunteers who testified at the public hearing said it best:
"I really hope that generations after me will either not start smoking at all, or, they will be able to quit more easily due to more difficult access. Tobacco 21 would not only benefit smokers, but also help people like me see friends and family take steps toward a healthier lifestyle". –Maine College of Art Student and American Heart Association volunteer
"When I was a little kid, my dad spent a lot of time with me. He used to play Ogre Tag with me and my sister on the playground where we’d run and then laugh until we were out of breath. These precious moments could have easily been traded away for the sake of tobacco, since my dad used to be a smoker. He started before he was even eighteen. Nearly twenty-five percent of high school students report using tobacco products, and an estimated 6 million of those kids will die prematurely in adulthood if current trends continue. They won’t have the chance to run with their kids on the playground; they won’t have the chance to laugh like I did with my dad."—Casco Bay High School student and American Heart Association volunteer
"Furthermore, high school students are at a crucial point in brain development. Because of this, the brain may be more vulnerable to the addictive effects of tobacco. The younger one is when they smoke their first cigarette the more likely they are to be a smoker for life." –another Casco Bay HS student and American Heart Association volunteer.
Advocacy volunteers are crucial to our efforts to reduce tobacco use in Maine. If you’d like to help us in the future, please email me at
[email protected], and thanks.