Last week, the Maine Health and Human Services Committee held a public hearing on LD 1550, “An Act to End the Sale of Flavored Tobacco Products,” sponsored by Representative Michele Meyer, D-Eliot. The bill would ban the sale and distribution of flavored tobacco products in Maine, including flavored cigars and electronic cigarettes.
A ban on certain tobacco products will have very little effect on aggregate demand or usage rates in Maine, but it will redirect valuable tax revenues to New Hampshire, as the Massachusetts ban did. Maine is doing more than most other states in the country to reduce youth initiation and promote adult dropout. The American Lung Association gives Maine an A rating, one of only three states in the country, for its $ 15 million funding for tobacco control programs. Funding education and abandonment is how we teach our young people about the harms of these products, not a failed 1920s policy like Prohibition.
Last June, Massachusetts implemented its ban on flavored tobacco products, passed in 2019. The state Department of Revenue predicted that even with a new 75% tax on electronic cigarettes in the proposed law, the move would cost Massachusetts $ 93 million over the fiscal year. . The state lost more than $ 10 million a month, on the verge of waiving more than $ 120 million in tobacco taxes this fiscal year. After grossing $ 557 million last year, Massachusetts is on track to lose 20% of expected tax revenue from tobacco sales.
Have 20% of Massachusetts smokers and tobacco users quit after the ban is implemented? No; smoking has not disappeared. Massachusetts tobacco users have simply switched to another tasteless product, or they have crossed the border to find their favorite flavored product. The proof is in the data.
The New England Convenience Store and Energy Marketers Association (NECSEMA) followed the regional market, noting that between June and December total cigarette sales in New Hampshire jumped 46%, menthol cigarette sales increased 90%. % and sales of smokeless mint / wintergreen. tobacco more than doubled compared to the same period in 2019. Cigarette sales in Massachusetts are down nearly 24%, with total convenience store sales falling 10%.
In Rhode Island, total cigarette sales increased 20%, menthols increased 29%, and sales of mint and wintergreen smokeless tobacco increased 59%. In New Hampshire, these stores have seen their overall sales almost double, a clear sign that consumers are simply reacting to recent policy changes and not changing their personal behavior.
The Mainers have simply crossed the New Hampshire border for years to find better prices on all kinds of goods. While Maine bans most tobacco products, the state will continue to lose its economic activity and send even more tax revenue to our nearest neighbor.