Lawmakers in the state of Maine have begun to push for a statewide flavor ban. This comes after a series of successful implementations of flavor bans in smaller local communities over the past few months.
State Senator Jill Duson has sponsored LR 740, which is titled ‘An Act to End the Sale of Flavored Tobacco Products.’ It is expected that Duson will submit a bill very soon.
If successful, Maine will join other states like Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, and California in placing such a ban.
Like the other flavor bans, a successful bill will likely result in the sale of all flavored tobacco products, including vape products, being prohibited.
Anyone paying attention to the ongoing increase in the adoption of flavor bans will have noticed the primary motivation given by lawmakers — underage vaping. Both the proposed statewide ban and the smaller bans already in place in Maine have also cited this as their main driving factor.
One of the primary advocates for the ban is the Flavors Hook Kids Maine group.
“Statistics are showing a good number of people who start smoking do so with flavored products, and that’s what’s getting them hooked,” said Dan Cashman, a spokesperson for Flavors Hook Kids Maine.
The Proposed Statewide Ban
At this point, flavor bans have become relatively commonplace throughout both the United States and a number of countries across the globe.
This has not been the first time a statewide ban has been proposed either. Rep. Michele Meyer proposed a bill in both 2021 and 2022. However, both of these were stalled.
This proposed ban is in addition to an existing ban on the online sale of vape products within the state of Maine.
There has not yet been a clear indication of what the penalty that retailers will face should they breach the flavor ban, but if the existing bans in local communities like South Portland are any indication then it is likely that offenders will face fines starting around $500 for their first offense. These fines will likely increase with each repeat offense.
The main problem with such a ban is that in reality, it does not help and this is for two reasons.
The first reason is that when forcibly removing any product that people are not willing to give up, consumers’ resourcefulness should not be underestimated.
There are dozens of ways to flaunt the system to gain access to their preferred vape product. This is especially true when considering only the sale of these products is prohibited, not possession.
The second reason comes from vaping’s potential for tobacco harm reduction. It is no secret that cigarettes have the power to take a strong hold over certain peopl. These are the people that need easy access to vaping products which can help them stay away from the vastly more dangerous product that is smoking tobacco.
By making it harder to access enjoyable vapes, lawmakers push these people straight back into their cigarette addiction.
Despite Cashman’s alleged statistics, there are various studies that have concluded there is no link between using e-cigarettes and beginning to use traditional cigarettes. One of the most prominent of these is Gateway Theory, which has been quashed multiple times.
Existing Local Flavor Bans
One of the leading factors to the proposal of the statewide ban is the success seen throughout the state in terms of implementing flavor bans in smaller communities.
Within the last few months, four local communities have voted in flavor bans. These are South Portland, Portland, Brunswick, and Bangor. The most recent to join the list is South Portland, which signed the ban on Dec. 20, 2022.
As part of these flavor bans, both flavored and menthol vape products and menthol cigarettes became prohibited. This is what is typically seen throughout the country when it comes to flavor bans.
Some of the local bans, like the one recently passed in South Portland, have not yet come into effect. In the case of South Portland, vapers have until April 1 to access their preferred flavored products.
Some States Are Doing It Differently
While most of the country is following suit by introducing stricter vape laws in the hope of reducing underage vaping, there are some states that are doing the opposite and seeing the desired results. In the past few weeks, Wisconsin and Minnesota have seen success in this regard.
In the case of Wisconsin, researchers have noted a decrease in cigarette sales. Given the increase in vaping numbers in the state, they have concluded that there is a strong link between the two changes.
In Minnesota, both smoking and vaping rates have reportedly decreased overall. In addition to this, the youth population in particular has also seen a decrease in its vaping numbers.
Currently, there are no flavor bans in place in either Minnesota or Wisconsin.
By avoiding suffocating restrictions, these states allow consumers to reap the benefits of vaping and e-cigarettes as a means to reduce their smoking habits.
Current states with statewide restrictions include Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, California, Maryland, and Utah. Interestingly, there has been little to no reduction in vaping numbers in any of these states. With Governor Mike DeWine recently vetoing a preemption bill, it is likely that a statewide ban is coming in the near future for Ohio as well.
Maine is making efforts to join the list of states to have implemented a tobacco and vape flavor ban on a statewide level. This goal likely gained momentum as a number of smaller local communities have brought in such bans.
At present, four major cities in Maine have passed legislation for bans that prohibit both flavored tobacco and vape products.