AUGUSTA (AP) – The air will be cleaner in homes and cars where foster children live and ride if a bill that awaited Gov. John Baldacci’s signature Monday becomes law.

It is one of several smoking-related measures working their way through the Legislature.

The bill calling for new rules restricting smoking where foster children live and ride was weakened from the original version, which sought to impose a flat-out ban in those surroundings.

The enacted version orders Maine’s Human Services Department to adopt rules by July 2004 that take into account the rights of foster parents, said its sponsor, Rep. David Trahan. The rules will be reviewed by the Legislature.

The rules could, for example, set aside “safe areas” in homes where foster parents could smoke, said Trahan, R-Waldoboro. The rules will also have to apply to foster parents’ vehicles.

The American Lung Association of Maine would have preferred a stronger bill, but supports the version that was sent to the governor, the health advocacy group’s Ed Miller said.

“Just by raising the issue in the bill, I’m sure there have been changes in foster homes across the state,” said Miller.

A separate bill that awaited final votes Monday would prohibit smoking where beano or bingo games are played. The House and Senate have both agreed to allow exceptions where high-stakes beano or bingo games are conducted by Indian tribes.

Baldacci has signed another beano bill, which will allow someone running the games to fill in for a player who is taking a restroom break. The bill does not apply to high-stakes games.

A measure to extend Maine’s public-smoking prohibitions to bars, pool halls and off-track betting parlors won initial Senate approval by a 32-2 vote Monday. The bill faces further Senate and House votes.

Maine’s list of places where smoking is restricted added restaurants in 1999. The remaining exceptions allowed under state law have troubled some lawmakers, who said they sent an inconsistent message to the public.

Internet tobacco sales – especially to underage Mainers – are the target of a bill that was successful in its first House vote Monday.

Without debate, representatives gave initial approval to a measure to prohibit the delivery of tobacco products to consumers in Maine unless the seller is licensed as a tobacco retailer. Violations could result in fines from $50 to $1,500.

The lung association’s Miller said the bill addresses sales of tobacco products through the Internet. Some sellers not only avoid applicable state taxes, but also get around having to verify purchasers’ ages through cyber sales.

Miller said that in many years of working on health issues in the State House, he has never seen a more diverse array of advocacy groups support a tobacco-related bill.

In addition to health and insurance groups, supporters included grocers, merchants, convenience stores, distributors, pharmacies and the state attorney general’s office.

AP-ES-06-02-03 1603EDT



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