I am a Hallowell resident and retired public health professional with over 40 years of experience in tobacco policy in Maine. Throughout my career, I have heard countless doomsday predictions from the tobacco industry and their surrogates. When Maine last increased the tobacco tax over 15 years ago, it predicted that mass smuggling and armed gangs would threaten law and order. Obviously, this did not happen.
Some of their more dire warnings were about anti-smoking laws that we wouldn’t consider overturning today. Their claims then seem ridiculous today, but here are a few: banning indoor smoking would end public participation in city meetings; jurors would be unable to deliberate, productivity at work would drop; grocery stores and malls would lose customers; restaurants and bars would fail and tourists would go on vacation elsewhere.
This industry and its allies are focusing their creativity on people’s addiction to nicotine, and then on maintaining that addiction. Flavors are just one of their strategies. With the growing public concern about the health effects of smoking, they invented “light” cigarettes to give smokers a false sense of security, even though menthol in “light” made them more dangerous. When youth smoking rates began to drop dramatically in the early 1980s, they recreated Joe Camel as their cartoon mascot.
Don’t be fooled by their arguments today. Ending the sale of flavored tobacco products is a revolutionary response to the growing epidemic of nicotine addiction among young people. This is what worries them.
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