Augusta – Federal money will soon be headed to Maine to help the fight against underage smoking. Statistics show that every day in America, around 3500 kids light up their first cigarette.
Now help is on the way. Dr. Lawrence Deyton, Director of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products, says Maine has been awarded a contract that could be worth as much as $2.1 million dollars. The money is to help enforce FDA tobacco product laws and regulations. “We know that if we don’t stop it, for many of those kids, that first puff will lead to a lifetime of addiction and early death,” Dr.Deyton said at Monday’s press conference announcing the contract and money. A press conference that also featured Maine Attorney General William Schneider and DHHS Commissioner Mary Mayhew. “Smoking can be a barrier, a big barrier, to the healthy and productive lives that all of our young people deserve,” Schneider told the crowd assembled at the Calumet Club in Augusta.
DHHS head Mary Mayhew says she’s excited to have some good news to report. “This additional money into the state to help with our inspections of retailers to ensure that there aren’t any underage sales of tobacco to minors is a huge step in the right direction for Maine.”
The contract also provides the state with new resources as well as the authority to inspect retailers and collect evidence needed to take action when the law is broken. Selling cigarettes to anyone under the age of 18 is against the law and retailers are also required to check the ID of anyone who’s under the age of 27 before selling them tobacco. “It’s the retailers who are on the front lines and who can truly be the decisive factor in helping to protect kids from starting to use tobacco,” Dr. Deyton told the crowd in Augusta
But he wanted to be clear that the goal is not to penalize store owners. They’re hoping to get everyone working together to keep kids from ever lighting that first cigarette. “And our hope will be with the help of retailers, healthcare professionals, educators, and community organizations, policy makers, the media, parents, and especially the teens themselves that tobacco use will present much less of a threat to the health and well being to the young people of Maine.”