Banning flavored tobacco sales to protect youth health

Banning flavored tobacco sales to protect youth health
Bangor City Council reinstates ban on flavored tobacco sales to prevent youth vaping and smoking.

In October of last year, the council of the city of Bangor voted to ban the sale of flavored tobacco in order to prevent young people from vaping and smoking.

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health's poster emphasizes the dangers of flavored tobacco. Source: Damian Dovarganes/AP.

After a vote of 7 to 1, a city lawyer has notified city council members that an ordinance set to take effect on June 1 must be repealed because the city failed to adequately notify tobacco retailers that it was considering the ban. Bangor City attorney David Szewczyk told council members in April that the city was required to directly notify local tobacco retailers at least 30 days before considering the ordinance because it was more restrictive than state law. Due to the lack of notification, the ban has been repealed before taking effect.

Now, almost 10 months later, the ban on the sale of flavored tobacco is once again being presented to the city council.

Unless there have been some changes since October - which we do not believe have taken place - the council should reissue the ban.

The rate of tobacco use among teenagers is on the rise, especially with regards to e-cigarettes. Based on a statewide health survey, in 2019 over a quarter of high school students in Maine reported using e-cigarettes, nearly double the rate from two years prior. Additionally, 16% of middle school students reported trying e-cigarettes in 2019, which is a rise from the 10% reported in 2017.

Across the country, 85% of young people who use e-cigarettes opt for flavored varieties. These products come in hundreds of different flavors, with many sounding like candy or soda, making them particularly appealing to young people.

According to data from the US Food and Drug Administration, three-quarters of current tobacco users report that their first tobacco product was flavored. The agency also reports that almost all smoking starts at the age of 18.

The FDA has proposed a rule to ban additional flavored tobacco products nationwide.

It is essential to keep tobacco products away from young people. Currently, it is illegal to sell tobacco products to anyone under 21 in Maine. However, the results of a youth health survey and state compliance report show that there are still many gaps in this law.

Banning the sale of flavored tobacco in one of the largest cities in the state will help fill these gaps and save lives and taxpayer money.

Bangor became the first community in Maine to vote last fall to ban the sale of flavored tobacco products. Portland passed its own anti-flavored tobacco sales ordinance in February, and Brunswick passed one in April. Both became effective on June 1st. Other communities are considering their own bans.

A statewide bill (LD 1550) that would ban flavored tobacco products in Maine has been put on hold as the legislative body has not taken final action.

Tobacco retailers and store owners are correct in stating that a statewide ban would make more sense than a community-by-community approach. However, in the absence of legislative action, bans in cities such as Bangor, Portland, and Brunswick may spur statewide action.

After presenting the evidence last year, the Bangor city council member strongly supported the ban. The evidence remains unchanged and their vote should not be altered.


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