Politics

May 21, 2013

LePage vetoes smoking ban on college campuses

If lawmakers want to be consistent, they should submit a bill to 'outlaw tobacco altogether' instead of just banning smoking in certain places, he says.

By Michael Shepherd mshepherd@mainetoday.com
State House Bureau

AUGUSTA — Gov. Paul LePage has vetoed a bill that would ban smoking on all public university and college campuses in Maine, saying he'd rather see a bill to "outlaw tobacco altogether" than a patchwork approach.

click image to enlarge

Gov. Paul LePage

Gabe Souza / Staff Photographer

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In this file photo, USM freshman Joshua Thornberg smokes during a protest of a proposed smoking ban on USM campuses at the Gorham campus on Monday December 3, 2012. Gov. LePage has vetoed a bill to ban smoking at all public Maine college campuses.

Carl D. Walsh/Staff Photographer

The bill LePage vetoed, L.D. 468, sponsored by Rep. Benjamin Chipman, a Portland independent, would have prohibited smoking on all university and community college campuses, along with Maine Maritime Academy in Castine, by August 2014.

In a veto message Monday to the Legislature -- his eighth of this legislative session -- LePage said he thinks "universities, colleges, and Maine people can make their own decisions" concerning tobacco.

"However, for those who oppose its use, they should bring a bill forward to simply outlaw tobacco altogether," the governor continued. "It would be simpler and more consistent than passing more and more legislation, creating a patchwork of laws and locations where tobacco can and cannot be used."

The bill passed without roll call votes in the House of Representatives and Senate.

Chipman said Tuesday that current law allows a "patchwork" of smoking policies on campuses statewide and he thought LePage didn't fully understand the bill.

"He said he doesn't want a patchwork of policies and that's what this is designed to fix," Chipman said. "I'm quite frankly surprised and quite disappointed that the governor chose to veto a bill that is aimed at the health of our campuses."

In testimony on the bill at a public hearing in February, Ryan Low, executive director of governmental and external affairs for the University of Maine System, said five of the system's seven campuses are tobacco-free. Low said the system supported the bill.

The University of Maine in Orono was the first to adopt such a policy, in January 2012, while the University of Maine at Machias and the University of Maine at Presque Isle -- the two campuses where tobacco is still permitted -- are scheduled to implement tobacco-free policies in September 2013 and January 2014.

John Fitzsimmons, president of the Maine Community College System, said in February that at the system's seven campuses, "one is currently tobacco-free, another is planning to be tobacco-free by the end of this calendar year, and the remaining colleges are on a path to become tobacco-free."

The measure was supported by the American Lung Association, the American Cancer Society and the Maine Medical Association.

Michael Shepherd can be contacted at 370-7652 or at:

mshepherd@mainetoday.com

Twitter: @mikeshepherdme

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