Tobacco vending machine bills rejected Senate panel's vote makes ban unlikely this session

March 19, 1997|By Thomas W. Waldron | Thomas W. Waldron,SUN STAFF

Bills designed to make it harder for minors to buy cigarettes from vending machines were killed yesterday in a state Senate committee, all but concluding the issue for the year.

The Judicial Proceedings Committee rejected three measures pushed by anti-smoking lawmakers.

Topping the list was a bill sponsored by Sen. Jennie M. Forehand, a Montgomery Democrat, which would have banned the sale of tobacco products in vending machines.

The bill died when it received only four of the six votes it needed to escape the 11-member committee.

Two other bills would have banned cigarette vending machines except in certain locations such as bars. Both failed 3-6.

While similar bills remain alive in the House of Delegates, the Senate committee votes make it extremely unlikely that any will be enacted during the General Assembly's 90-day session, which ends April 7.

"I'm disappointed, but I'm not surprised," said Del. Barbara Frush, a Prince George's Democrat and a leader in the anti-smoking effort. "We just seem to have this tobacco mentality in the state of Maryland."

Still to be decided is the fate of Gov. Parris N. Glendening's proposed doubling of the state's 36 cents-per-pack tax on cigarettes. The measure is pending in two legislative committees.

Glendening proposed the tax increase to raise revenue and to curb smoking, particularly among children who presumably would be less able to afford more expensive cigarettes.

Along with the cigarette tax, anti-smoking advocates had focused much of their efforts on vending machines, where they say many underage youths are best able to buy cigarettes.

Restricting vending machine sales is a more important goal now that the federal government has imposed regulations requiring store clerks to see a buyer's proof of age, advocates argued.

Pub Date: 3/19/97

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