AUGUSTA — Declaring the Maine economy “has been dependent on men and women working long hours in the sun” for generations, Gov. Paul LePage vetoed a measure that would have barred anyone younger than 18 from using a tanning salon.

LePage said the proposal approved by the Legislature is both “unnecessary and an overreach of government” meddling where it doesn’t belong.

An effort to override the veto fell short in the Senate Tuesday after a 22-13 vote in favor failed to reach the required two-thirds threshold.

Lawmakers who urged its passing said the proposal would help prevent skin cancer that claims the lives of too many people who fail to take the risk seriously, especially when they’re young.

The American Cancer Society said about 450 Mainers get melanoma annually, one of the few states that’s seeing the toll rising in recent years. It said the most avoidable risk is to skip tanning salons.

But LePage said that “industries like potato and blueberry harvesting, lobster fishing, forestry, various construction activities and even our tourism industry all require and depend on significant time in the sunshine.”

“While every person has a responsibility to take appropriate precautions both for themselves and their children, the dangers of the sun and UV radiation are never completely avoidable,” the governor said in his veto message.

“Despite what the Legislature appears to think, government is not the answer to all problems and it cannot protect its citizens from all potential dangers or poor decision-making,” LePage said.

“I believe the success of our state is dependent on the success of our people, not on the prohibitions and restrictions government imposes,” he said.

The existing law in Maine prohibits those under 14 from using a licensed tanning facility. Those who are 14 or 15 must be accompanied by a parent and anyone who is 16 or 17 has to have parental permission to use a salon.

For LePage, that’s enough.

“Government needs to get out of the way and allow parents to parent, allow individuals to make decisions for themselves and allow businesses to operate without the paralyzing intrusion of bureaucracy,” he said.

He called the proposal introduced by Sen. Amy Volk, R-Scarborough, as “just one more example of the desire of the Legislature to inappropriately reach into the lives of families and control their decision-making.”

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