1. Ensure that the Fund for Health Maine and tobacco settlement funds are appropriately allocated and expended for approved purposes;
2. Raise the minimum legal sales age for tobacco products to 21; and
3. Enact a cigarette tax increase of at least $1.50 per pack.
The 2016 legislative session in Maine was relatively quiet related to tobacco control bills as the second session of the Maine legislature is reserved for "emergency" measures. Much of the session was focused on educating lawmakers that tobacco is still an issue in Maine and building support for future initiatives.
In March 2016, the LePage Administration announced a "new direction" in the use of tobacco settlement funds that for 15 years funded 27 local "Healthy Maine Partnerships," that provided a local community presence for tobacco control and prevention efforts. Under the new framework a single entity would receive the state funding to handle tobacco prevention work statewide and another entity would receive the award for youth engagement on tobacco and substance abuse issues. The American Lung Association in Maine was active in the process insisting that the new direction be evidence-based and maintain a robust local presence. We have joined with our partners to engage with the awardees and ensure that Maine's past successful efforts continue.
Additionally, the Lung Association has continued working closely with the Office of the Attorney General in Maine which has oversight over tobacco enforcement issues. We have regularly engaged in ensuring that Maine's strong smokefree laws are adhered to and education continues with new venues such as outdoor concert pavilions and drive-in movie theaters. We have also used this relationship to educate about the recent addition of electronic cigarettes into Maine's smokefree public places law.
A significant accomplishment was realized in June of 2016, when the Portland City Council became the first municipality in Maine to raise the minimum sales age for tobacco products to 21. The Lung Association was supportive of this effort, and the ordinance passed unanimously. Since implementation in July of 2016, other communities have expressed interest in pursuing the initiative and legislation will be introduced in the Maine Legislature in 2017 to enact the measure statewide.
The American Lung Association in Maine will continue to work with our coalition partners to advance tobacco control and prevention efforts and defend our successful programs and smokefree policies against rollbacks. As the new legislature begins its work in 2017 we will continue to grow our coalition to educate policy makers, business leaders and the media of the importance of the Lung Association's goals to reduce tobacco use and protect public health.