Bill Proposes Ban of Flavored Nicotine Products
PRESQUE ISLE, Maine (WAGM) -
A bill that aims to end the sale of flavored tobacco products has been in the legislature for nearly a year and aims to keep kids off nicotine.
A bill currently in the state legislature titled LD 1550, “An Act To End the Sale of Flavored Tobacco Products” aims to ban nicotine products that contain flavors other than Tobacco. This would impact consumers of menthol cigarettes, chewing tobacco, and electronic smoking devices. BJ McCollister, Campaign Manager for FLAVORS HOOK KIDS MAINE, says this legislation will help keep highly addictive nicotine out of the hands of kids.
“What we see in Maine is that we have a skyrocketing number of kids being hooked on nicotine because they have access to flavored tobacco products that are designed to mask the taste of nicotine. The fact of the matter is just this week there was a national tobacco survey that was released that said 2.5 million kids are addicted to nicotine products, nearly 80 percent of those kids are using flavored tobacco products.”
The bill, which has been with the Health and Human Services Committee for nearly a year, has gained opposition from an organization that represents convenience stores in the region. Jonathan Shaer is Executive Director of the New England Convenience Store and Energy Marketers Association, which represents tens of thousands of convenience stores in New England. Shaer says other than the potential millions of dollars in lost tax revenue for the state if LD 1550 is passed, there is also a public health concern.
“So when a state like Maine abandons a market that is currently worth hundreds of millions of dollars, those products do not simply stop being used they are used, but they are now no longer sold through a legal, licensed, regulated and enforced framework that exists today through retailers, but it just goes underground and comes across state lines, goes online where there is tremendous lack of control over the products in terms of being taxed of course but also it’s a public health and public safety issue because we no longer know what it is that people are using, we can no longer control it.”
McCollister with FLAVORS HOOK KIDS MAINE says that he’s not worried about an underground black market of flavored nicotine developing in the state and says smokers should look at this legislation as a sign to quit.
“As most people know who have been a smoker, I’ve been a smoker myself, smokers want to quit, they’re always looking for that one last pack, or that one last bottle of vape juice they’re looking for a way to quit, and the best way, research shows, to help then quit is to remove access to the product” says McCollister.
However, last year, the legislature did an impact study regarding a ban of flavored nicotine products on Maine’s economy, and discovered the state would lose almost 23 million dollars of tax revenue if the ban were to become law, which is around 10% of the states General Fund.
“We don’t believe banning any products that are in demand is a rational thoughtful policy” says Shaer.
“If you look at the cost of tobacco use on state Medicaid dollars it far outweighs the cost of ending the sale of flavored tobacco products.” says McCollister
WAGM reached out to the representative that sponsored the bill in order to gain some insight, however they were unavailable for comment.
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