Maine legislation seeks to end sale of flavored tobacco products

A survey done by the U.S. CDC found that more than 30 percent of Maine teens vape.

Only five states have permanently banned flavored tobacco products, California, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island. Maine lawmakers are hoping to join that list soon.

“Fresh out of high school I feel like it’s kind of something that’s like, unavoidable, to know people who have used flavored tobacco products,” Rachel Ellis, 19, said.

She added that she cares about the health and wellbeing of her peers and knows a lot of people do it because it’s “cool.”

“It’s the popular thing to do. Everybody’s doing it, so I think it’s easy to just get swept up in that,” Ellis said.

Rep Michele Meyer, D-Eliot, hopes that Maine becomes the next state to ban flavored tobacco products.

“Tobacco kills more people than any other addiction, and we know this is an addiction of adolescence,” Meyer said.

In the last legislative session, Meyer proposed An Act To End the Sale of Flavored Tobacco Products, but that would leave a $32 million hole in state funds, which Gov. Janet Mills added to the state budget, but legislators didn’t approve it.

This forces the Legislature to re-address the bill this session with many Mainers supporting it.

“These flavors are designed to get kids hooked on nicotine, and Mainers don’t want that,” BJ McCollister, an advocate for this bill, said.

There are, of course, people who oppose this, including Brett Scott from Smokers Haven. He said banning menthol cigarettes is one thing, but it’s banning vapes that he sees as a problem.

“The part that you’re including vapes in with these bans is very unfortunate because we hear the stories from our consumers about the impacts that flavored vapes have for them,” Scott said.

He added vapes could help people quit smoking.

Some cities and towns, like Bangor, have already banned the sale of flavored tobacco products. But ultimately, it will be up to the Legislature to make this a statewide ban.

Jackie Mundry/News Center Maine