ANNAPOLIS -- The Senate defeated and then had second thoughts yesterday about a bill banning cigarette vending machines from places where youngsters can get at them.
After watching the bill go down to defeat by a vote of 22-20, Sen. Arthur Dorman, D-Prince George's, asked that it be reconsidered Tuesday.
The bill sought to keep cigarette machines out of skating rinks, bowling alleys, video arcades and similar recreational facilities in hopes of preventing youths from buying cigarettes.
Even if the bill passes the Senate next week, its chances of surviving in the House of Delegates are slim. The House Ways and Means Committee killed a similar bill Thursday.
Despite the House action, Mr. Dorman is not willing to give up the fight in the Senate, where he thinks the bill stands a good chance of passing.
In pressing his case, Mr. Dorman said health issues should override concerns about people losing jobs if cigarette machines are banned.
"I think we've got to put some barrier there between youths and the availability of cigarettes," he said, adding that there are plenty of other types of machines in the vending business.
"I'm sure there are enough candy machines out there to keep them busy, and I'd rather see kids eating candy than smoking cigarettes," Mr. Dorman said.
However, lobbyist Bruce C. Bereano, who represents the Maryland-D.C. Vending Association as well as tobacco interests, scoffed at the idea that the bill's enactment would keep minors from buying cigarettes.
"Kids do not buy their cigarettes from vending machines. They go to 7-Eleven and other convenience stores," he said. "The premise of this legislation is absolutely false that the sale of cigarettes in vending machines is causing kids to smoke."
Mr. Bereano said those supporting the bill are merely using it as the first step in their efforts to ban the sale of cigarettes completely in Maryland.
"They're using the sale of cigarettes to children and kids as a guise, a Trojan horse for their real objectives," said Mr. Bereano, who also represents the Tobacco Institute.