E-cigarettes were pushed out into the market as a safer alternative to smoking – one that would help people get away from that deadly habit.

Instead, it’s done the opposite, as vaping products with names like “Blue Razz” and “Frozen Lime Drop” attract teens who may never have otherwise been able to stomach the taste of tobacco, and leave them hooked to nicotine.

The proliferation of sweet and fruity tobacco products has been a real-life experiment, with kids making up most of the subjects. It’s got to stop before we reverse years of progress against the awful consequences of tobacco.

A bill before the Legislature would make Maine the third state to ban all flavored e-cigarettes, chewing tobacco and cigars, joining Massachusetts and California. The Trump administration issued a partial ban early last year, and the House of Representatives passed a full ban this year; the Senate has not yet taken up the issue.

The bill, L.D. 1550, passed the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee along a party-line vote, with Democrats in support, though the bill does have Republican sponsors. The policy has been included in Gov. Mills’ supplemental budget as well.

Republicans on the committee have issued a minority report amendment that would ban only flavored e-cigarettes – not flavored chewing tobacco and cigars, nor menthol cigarettes.


But that’s the definition of a half-measure. The full Legislature should pass L.D. 1550 in its original form and fund it in the budget – it’s the most effective way to stop the state from backsliding on tobacco cessation.

Flavored e-cigarettes are the main target of the legislation. Vaping devices were heralded as a way for smokers to satisfy nicotine cravings without inhaling all the carcinogens in tobacco, but they’ve been picked up by kids drawn to the flavors.

That’s not an accident. The devices and their flavorful products are clearly marketed toward getting the younger generation to give it a try. Once they do, the nicotine does the rest, rewarding every push of the button with a hit to the pleasure center of the teen’s brain.

An alarming portion of high- and middle-school students now vape. We’ve heard from school officials in and out of Maine that an increasing number of students are having difficulty making it through even one class without vaping. Students themselves have said that once they are hooked, it’s all they can think about.

And once a teen become addicted to e-cigarettes, it becomes more likely that they will graduate to the old-fashioned kind later on, inviting all the health problems that brings.

Menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars and chewing tobacco haven’t got the same kind of attention, but the same factors are at play. These products are marketed towards kids, too, with the hope that they’ll become the next generation of smokers.


In the case of menthol cigarettes, they are marketed almost exclusively toward Black youth and young adults.

There’s a reason for targeting youth. Tobacco companies know that if someone is going to become a lifelong customer, they almost always start using their products as a teen or early adult.

That’s why everything – the flavors, the ads, the social media presence – is aimed at appealing to teens and young adults.

And that’s why Maine should ban the flavors – all the flavors. There’s no reason to allow tobacco companies to create the next generation of smokers.

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