20th Annual ‘State of Tobacco Control’ Report Highlights the Need to Restore Funding to Maine’s Tobacco Control Program and Protect Youth from Flavored Tobacco Products

New report reveals Maine tobacco policy successes over past 20 years at risk

The American Lung Association’s 20th annual “State of Tobacco Control” report, released today, reveals significant progress in the work to end tobacco use, but products like e-cigarettes and other flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes, create concern for losing another generation to nicotine addiction. The report finds that although Maine earned mixed grades, it maintained one failing grade on flavored tobacco products. 

The “State of Tobacco Control” report evaluates state and federal policymakers on actions taken to eliminate tobacco use, the nation’s leading cause of preventable death. The report recommends proven-effective tobacco control laws and policies to save lives. The 2022 “State of Tobacco Control” reveals that the country has made substantial progress in advancing tobacco control policies over the past 20 years, including comprehensive smokefree laws in more states, increased tobacco taxes across the nation and more Americans with access to treatments to help them quit smoking through state Medicaid programs. 

Here in Maine in the last 20 years, lawmakers have made significant strides to reduce tobacco use, including a robust clean indoor air act that protects people from secondhand smoke and strong cessation benefit and services to help tobacco users make a quit attempt. However, there is more work to be done. The adult smoking rate is still 16.5%, and the high school tobacco use rate is 33%. Today, smoking costs the State over $811 million and over 2,300 Maine lives annually.  

“Over the last 2 decades, we have seen considerable progress in Maine. However, tobacco use remains our leading cause of preventable death and disease, taking an estimated 2,390 Maine lives each year,” said Lance Boucher, assistant vice president for state public policy for the American Lung Association in Maine. “Last year we saw the budget for the Maine Tobacco Control program cut by $5 million, which will have an enormous impact of Maine’s ability to address the youth e-cigarette epidemic.  By restoring funding and removing all flavored tobacco products from the shelves, our legislators stand to make a real difference in the lives of our youth, by keeping them from a lifetime of nicotine addiction.”

Maine’s Grades 
“State of Tobacco Control” 2022 grades states and the District of Columbia in five areas that have been proven to prevent and reduce tobacco use and save lives. Maine received the following grades: 

  • Funding for State Tobacco Prevention Programs – Grade C
  • Strength of Smokefree Workplace Laws – Grade A
  • Level of State Tobacco Taxes – Grade C
  • Coverage and Access to Services to Quit Tobacco – Grade A
  • Ending the Sale of All Flavored Tobacco Products   - Grade F 

This year’s report noted the need for Maine policymakers to restore funding for tobacco prevention and quit smoking programs. An investment in prevention is especially important given the ongoing youth vaping epidemic. 

“Despite receiving over $187 million from tobacco settlement payments and tobacco taxes, Maine only funds tobacco control efforts at 60% the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended level.  The Lung Association believes the State’s tobacco related revenue should be used to support the health of our communities, and to prevent tobacco use and help people quit, and not switch to e-cigarettes. These programs are also critical for helping to end tobacco-related health disparities,” said Boucher.

In addition to tobacco program funding, the report also highlights the importance of refocusing on ending the sale of all flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes in the State of Maine. According to the 2021 National Youth Tobacco Survey, more than two million high school and middle school students use e-cigarettes, and over 80% of those kids use flavored e-cigarettes. In addition, menthol cigarettes continue to be the major cause of tobacco-related death and disease in Black communities, with nearly 81% of Black Americans who smoke using them. Ending the sale of flavored tobacco products, including menthol, will not only help end youth vaping, but will also help address the disproportionate impact of menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars have on many communities, including Black Americans, LGBTQ+ Americans and youth.  

“In Maine 1 out of every 3 High School Students is using tobacco – and we know that kids follow the flavors. Ending the sale of all flavored tobacco products in Maine is key to ending youth tobacco use. We call on Governor Mills and legislators in Augusta to prohibit the sale of all flavored tobacco products, including menthol.” said Boucher.

Federal Grades Overview
“State of Tobacco Control” 2022 also grades the federal government in five areas: 

  • Federal Government Regulation of Tobacco Products (2022 grade – D)
  • Federal Coverage of Quit Smoking Treatments (2022 grade – D)
  • Level of Federal Tobacco Taxes (2022 grade – F)
  • Federal Mass Media Campaigns to Prevent and Reduce Tobacco Use (2022 grade – A)
  • Federal Minimum Age of Sale for Tobacco Products to 21 (2022 grade – I*)

* The Incomplete grade is for the FDA being more than 18 months overdue in publishing the final Tobacco 21 regulations as required by statute.

Boucher concluded, “In 2022, Maine needs to redouble its efforts to pass the proven policies called for in ‘State of Tobacco Control’ to help end tobacco use. We cannot afford to wait 20 more years and allow another generation to suffer from tobacco-caused addiction, disease and death.” 

For media interested in speaking with an expert about the “State of Tobacco Control” report, lung health, tobacco use and tobacco control policies, contact the American Lung Association at [email protected] or 516.680.8927
 

For more information, contact:

Jennifer Solomon
(516) 680-8927
[email protected]

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