Maine's Proposed Flavor Ban Won't Improve Public Health | Citizens Against Government Waste

Maine's Proposed Flavor Ban Won't Improve Public Health

The WasteWatcher

As Maine begins its 2022 legislative session, bills are being introduced in the name of improving public health that will unfortunately do nothing of the sort.  They include H.P. 1258, introduced by House Assistant Majority Leader Rachel Talbott Ross (D-District 41) with the lofty objectives of advancing “Health Equity,” improving every Mainer’s “Well-being,” and creating a “Health Trust.” 

The trust would be funded through settlement funds and other funds, and the money would be redistributed to state agencies for tobacco use prevention and control, and other public health and prevention programs.  The trust may also receive money from public and private sources, including the existing Fund for a Healthy Maine, which has allocated an average of more than $55 million annually since fiscal year 2009-2010 for the same purposes as the trust, including healthcare-related state programs and tobacco prevention and control, for which more than $5.4 million annually has been spent.  The bill also includes a permanent ban on flavored tobacco products, and a doubling of the cigarette tax.

If the legislation is enacted into law, Maine would become the next state to take permanent action against all flavored tobacco products.  The bill would restrict access to flavors like mint and menthol that are currently sold in the state.  Banning flavored tobacco harm reduction products (THR) will not improve public health.  It will open the door to a black market and increase sales in neighboring states that do not have a flavor ban, and even worse it will increase the number of smokers who will either not stop smoking cigarettes or transition back to traditional cigarettes.

There is significant proof that THR products have helped adults with smoking cessation and flavored products play a key role in that success.  More than 3 million U.S. adults used THR products to quit smoking from 2007 to 2015.  Unlike traditional cigarettes, which have significant links to cancer, when burned, and release more than 7,000 chemicals, including arsenic, lead, and tar, THR products carry less risk to smokers.

Citizens Against Government Waste’s 2021 report suggested that THR products should be widely adopted across the U.S.  Instead of instituting regressive taxes, strict regulations, and outright bans on harm reduction products, the report cited the success of THR products in reducing smoking in countries like England and Sweden. 

There are not only public health implications to instituting flavor bans, but also economic consequences.  The tobacco industry left a $40.8 million footprint in Maine in 2021.  The U.S. e-cigarette and vaping market was estimated at $6.1 billion in 2020 and was expected to grow to more than $7.4 billion in 2021.

A Yale University study found that e-cigarette state bans result in a 1 percent increase in cigarette smoking between 12 and 17 years old.  Instead of enacting ineffective bans on adult’s state legislators should focus on enforcing the laws on the books, including ID verification, and holding retailers accountable when they break the law and sell illegal products to young people.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that smoking is responsible for the death of more than 480,000 Americans every year, and these individuals die 10 years earlier than non-smokers.  Rather than improving health, H.P. 1258 will fail to mitigate future deaths by making it more difficult to stop smoking cigarettes.  The Maine legislature should reject this legislation and any similar bill that would institute a ban on products that reduce harm and help adults quit smoking combustible cigarettes.

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