Under the pretext of “protecting the children”, lawmakers in Maine are trying to ban the sale of flavored tobacco and vaping products. While the protection of children from the harms of adult products is laudable, this ban effectively punishes adults for failures of poorly executed and underfunded tobacco control programs. Worse yet, Maine stands to lose millions (if not billions) of dollars in the long run from tobacco-generated revenues that would otherwise help fund so-called tobacco control programs.
The sponsor of the bill says the legislation is monumental and that lawmakers have “few other bills (that they) have considered together that have the potential to have such a big impact on children’s health and of the communities of Maine ”.
Unfortunately, there are a plethora of other ways that lawmakers in Maine can approach the use of age-restricted products by young people. Legislation that allocates existing tobacco dollars earned through both taxes and settlement payments borne by cigarettes to programs that can help adult smokers quit, as well as prevent use among young people, must be implemented immediately.
In 1997, Maine joined the growing list of states that sued major cigarette manufacturers to offset Medicaid spending on smoking-related health issues. It has entered into an agreement with the tobacco companies as a party to the regulatory framework agreement. Under the MSA, states receive annual payments in perpetuity which consist of percentages of cigarette sales sold in the state concerned.
Initially, Maine used these funds for tobacco control programs. At a 2003 US Senate committee hearing, Maine was commended for spending a substantial portion of its tobacco settlement payments “to fund comprehensive tobacco prevention programs.”
Unfortunately, Maine has not always dedicated such funding. For example, in 2000, Maine allocated $ 18.8 million to tobacco control programs and received approximately $ 74.9 million in cigarette taxes and $ 44.3 million in settlement payments on tobacco. the tobacco. Essentially, Maine spent 15.8% of tobacco money on programs to help smokers quit and / or prevent use.
In 2019, the Pine Tree State spent just $ 4.8 million in public funding for tobacco control programs. This was about 2.5% of the $ 112.8 million and $ 78 million the state received in cigarette taxes and tobacco settlement payments (collectively) over the same time period.
In 2019, 17.6% of adults in Maine were current smokers and 13.9% were daily smokers, or 152,256 adults. Calculating one pack per day habit in 2019, more than 1.1 billion cigarettes were smoked in the year, or about three million per day.
In 2019, Maine imposed a state excise tax of $ 2 per package. This works out to $ 730 per year for a smoker per day. The $ 4.8 million in tobacco control funding is just $ 24.90 per smoker per year and a shockingly low $ 19.29 per resident under 18.
Even more problematic is the proposal to ban flavored vaping products would effectively eliminate tobacco harm reduction options for the hundreds of thousands of adult smokers in Maine. These products are proven to reduce smoking rates in young adults.
In the 10 years since the emergence of the e-cigarette product market, smoking rates among 18-24 year olds have declined by 24.5% from 18.4% of current smokers being young. adults in 2009 to only 13.9% of smokers aged 18 and over. 24 years.
The proposed ban would also benefit New Hampshire, the only northeastern state that still respects adult rights. In June 2020, a total flavor ban went into effect in Massachusetts, a southern neighbor of Granite State. This ban prohibits the sale of all tobacco and flavored vapor products, including menthol cigarettes.
New Hampshire should thank these Bay Staters for increasing cigarette sales tax revenue.
The Tax Foundation found that cigarette sales in New Hampshire increased 55.8% between June 2019 and June 2020. Additionally, in the first six months of fiscal 2021, the Granite State collected 130, $ 6 million in tobacco tax revenue, or 66% of what the state collected. over the full year 2019. If Maine follows Massachusetts, New Hampshire can expect more visitors – and more excise tax revenue – to follow. In an odd twist, New Hampshire will actually collect taxes and settlement payments from smokers in other states, while those states will lose funding that could be used to help them quit.
Rather than limiting the options of adult smokers and ex-smokers, Maine lawmakers should revert to using existing tobacco money in tobacco control programs. An adequately funded tobacco control program that works in tandem with all relevant actors, including manufacturers, retailers, and local and national health and education services. This would concern use and prevention by young people.
Lindsey Stroud is a policy analyst with the Taxpayers Protection Alliance, head and creator of Tobacco Harm Reduction 101 (thr101.org), and a board member of the Smoke-Free Alternatives Trade Association (SFATA). She wrote this for InsideSources.com.