1. Enact legislation restricting the sale of all flavored tobacco products;
2. Raise the cigarette tax by a minimum of $1.50 per pack; and
3. Ensure that the tobacco control program is fully funded at the recommended level by the U.S. CDC in light of future year funding declines in tobacco settlement revenue.
Tobacco control efforts were front and center from the beginning to the end of the 2019 legislative session. The year started out strong with Governor Janet Mills proposing to increase funding by $5 million annually for the tobacco control program in her biennial budget submission. The legislature enacted this increase, more than doubling the previous year's funding level. In the final days of the legislative session legislation was also passed and signed into law by the Governor equalizing the tax on other tobacco products to the same rate as cigarettes. Additionally, this measure dedicated more funding from the tax revenue to the tobacco control program.
Unfortunately, not all of the legislative action was successful. The Maine Legislature had the opportunity to address the burgeoning youth e-cigarette epidemic with comprehensive legislation restricting the sale of flavored tobacco products. However, legislators watered the bill down and removed all evidenced-based policies from the measure.
During the session, the Maine Public Health Association, a key partner of the American Lung Association in Maine released public polling on Maine citizens attitudes toward tobacco control measures. The results show that Mainers overwhelmingly support (91%) using tobacco settlement revenue to keep young people from starting smoking and helping others quit. Additionally, the results showed strong support (68%) for restricting the sale of all flavored tobacco products and increasing tobacco excise taxes.
The change in administration in Augusta also brought about a significant change in cooperation with state agencies. The Lung Association and partners have met regularly with the management of the tobacco control program to re-establish cooperative working relationships and plan for the significant increase in new state funding for the program.
The American Lung Association in Maine will continue to work with our coalition partners the Maine Public Health Association, the American Heart Association, Maine Medical Association, American Cancer Society and others to advance tobacco control and prevention efforts and defend our successful programs and smokefree policies against rollbacks. As the legislature begins its work in 2020 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.
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