AUGUSTA, Maine — A flavored tobacco ban cleared a Democratic-led legislative committee on Thursday, placing Maine on observe to grow to be the third state to enact such a sweeping prohibition on these merchandise.
The measure, from Sen. Jill Duson, D-Portland, would bar the sale of flavored e-cigarettes and different tobacco merchandise, together with menthol cigarettes, by 2025 beneath a model endorsed by Democrats on the Legislature’s well being committee. It now goes to the chambers for votes.
Debate in Augusta has been marked partly by an urban-rural divide and pressure between the well being implications of the proliferating merchandise and private freedom. Democrats have usually led the hassle in opposition to Republican opposition. However it isn’t a strict partisan cut up and the evangelical Christian Civic League of Maine joined a coalition backing a ban.
“There are few amongst us who haven’t skilled the predation of the tobacco business,” stated Rep. Michele Meyer, D-Eliot, who co-chairs the well being panel.
Maine lawmakers favored a ban on these merchandise in 2021, but it surely was stripped from a bipartisan funds deal by Republicans. The price of that prohibition was pegged at $32 million over two years. Lawmakers must discover cash to cowl the funds hole within the ultimate model of a spending proposal just lately floated by Gov. Janet Mills.
Solely Massachusetts and California have enacted whole bans, whereas three different states solely ban flavored e-cigarettes. The cost has been led largely by well being teams together with the nationwide Marketing campaign for Tobacco-Free Children, which has famous Maine’s greater charges of smoking and e-cigarette use amongst highschool college students than the remainder of the nation.
Opponents, together with the comfort retailer business and the conservative Maine Coverage Institute, have pointed to the loss in tax income in Massachusetts after the ban, though a examine on that matter confirmed that it was not clear if the ban was related to elevated gross sales in cross-border states together with New Hampshire.
Republicans on the well being committee tried to both vote down the invoice Thursday or go an modification solely banning the sale of flavored vaping liquids that haven’t acquired federal modified danger orders displaying they provide some well being advantages for individuals who are transitioning from different makes use of of tobacco similar to smoking.
Rep. Michael Lemelin, R-Chelsea, stated he feels “like I’m a hypocrite if I sit there and say I’m going to ban tobacco merchandise to avoid wasting folks’s lives, however I’m OK if you wish to smoke all of the marijuana you need and I’m OK with you doing medicine so long as you do them safely.”
“It’s a slippery slope as we begin to ban issues,” Rep. Ann Fredericks, R-Sanford, stated.
The coalition backing the ban has touted polling displaying majority assist for such a ban amongst Mainers. Nonetheless, the New England Comfort Retailer and Vitality Entrepreneurs Affiliation, which opposes the measure, offered its personal survey displaying majority opposition to banning menthol cigarettes.
Some rural Democrats have been skeptical of bringing the concept again early this 12 months, though Rockland and Bar Harbor have authorized related bans this 12 months, bringing the variety of Maine communities with prohibitions to 6.
Sen. Joe Baldacci, D-Bangor, who co-chairs the well being panel, stated he is aware of “it isn’t in style to make restrictions on issues,” however he pointed to Maine having tobacco use and most cancers charges above the nationwide common.
“Many people have personally seen the ravages that tobacco can have on folks’s lives, folks’s our bodies, households [and] communities,” he stated.