Plans for a state-wide ban on flavored tobacco in Maine gains support and opposition

Opponents say a flavored tobacco ban could cost the state money, while supports say it protects Maine children.
Maine State House
Maine State House(WABI)
Published: Mar. 17, 2023 at 12:58 PM EDT
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(WMTW) - A business group called Tobacco Free Maine Works, have joined together to encourage lawmakers to end the distribution and sale of flavored tobacco products in Maine. The group is working on a state-wide ban, similar to other states like Massachusetts and California.

Bar Harbor has become the fifth Maine town to ban flavored tobacco products. Portland, South Portland, Brunswick and Bangor have also voted for similar bans.

State lawmakers held a public hearing on LD 662 “An Act to Prohibit Municipal Flavored Tobacco Product Bans on State-Licensed Tobacco Retailers,” this Thursday. This is a separate bill that would prohibit municipalities from enacting their own ban on flavored tobacco that is not in accordance with the state.

The New England Convenience Store and Energy Marketers Association (NECSEMA), is a regional retail trade association that represents the convenience stores and gas stations in New England. They oppose bills like LD 662 and the idea of a state-wide ban on the sale of flavored tobacco in Maine.

Executive Director of NECSEMA, Peter Brennan, says after Massachusetts passed their own state-wide on the sale of flavored tobacco in 2020 black market sales increased and tax revenue depleted. Brennan says Maine would give up a lot of money they could use for education purposes. He says it would increase enforcement costs by creating another illegal product, adding, “Prohibition traditionally has not worked, especially in this country.”

Allyson Perron Drag is the Senior Regional Director of the American Heart Association. Perron says the ultimate goal of a state-wide flavored tobacco ban in Maine, is to make it harder for children to get their hands on those products.

Perron says, “It’s already banned under 21, but we know kids are still getting it, whether it’s through the stores or through social settings, you know, friends and family members. It just makes it they’re not they’re not seeing it all the time.”

A drafted bill for a state-wide ban on the sale of flavored tobacco products in Maine will come out this week. That bill will go for a hearing in front of the Health and Human Services Committee then go for a vote.