After successful efforts in four Maine communities to ban flavored tobacco products, public health advocates will propose a statewide ban in the legislative session that begins Wednesday.

If successful, Maine would join a handful of states that have statewide bans or restrictions.

Dan Cashman, spokesman for the Flavors Hook Kids Maine advocacy group, said state Sen. Jill Duson, D-Portland, is expected to submit a bill Friday that would include a ban. Details of the bill were not yet available Thursday and Duson could not be reached.

But in all four Maine communities that approved bans – South Portland, Portland, Brunswick and Bangor – flavored and menthol vaping products were prohibited, as were menthol cigarettes. The federal government currently bans flavors – such as mint and fruity flavors – in cigarettes, but does not regulate flavors in vaping products. Menthol is permitted in cigarettes under federal law.

“This is critical,” Cashman said. “Maine can’t afford to wait. Every day Maine kids are being lured to tobacco products with these marketing tactics and youth-oriented flavors being sold. These are dangerously addictive products.”

Cashman said there was “overwhelming” support in all four communities that approved a ban, and that a statewide ban is the “next logical step.”


Currently, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, California, Maryland and Utah have bans or some restrictions on the sale of flavored vaping products. Massachusetts and California have the most complete bans – prohibiting all sales of flavors and menthol in all tobacco products, including cigarettes, according to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

A bill proposed by state Rep. Michele Meyer, D-Eliot, in 2021 and 2022 would have banned flavored tobacco products but stalled, despite the support of the Maine Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Attorney General Aaron Frey, as well as several health organizations.

Ben Goodman, a spokesman for Gov. Janet Mills, said the “governor believes tobacco use poses a serious risk to the health of young people across Maine.” He pointed to anti-smoking initiatives, including a law that bans use and possession of all “electronic smoking devices and tobacco products on school grounds.”

“We have not yet had the opportunity to review the bill, but generally the governor is interested in working with the Legislature to explore strategies related to tobacco use that will protect the health and welfare of Maine’s youth,” Goodman said in a statement.

Leah Day, a South Portland resident and advocate for the city’s flavored tobacco ban, said a statewide ban wouldn’t stop all teens from becoming addicted but would reduce access and prevent many from trying it for the first time.

“Flavored vaping is this terrible problem, and a ban could prevent so many from becoming addicted,” Day said.

Day said her son, a South Portland High School student, became addicted almost immediately when he started vaping two years ago. She said the flavors attracted him, and the amount of nicotine in the vaping product he tried was much more concentrated than a cigarette. He ended up in the hospital to detox and experienced terrible withdrawal symptoms, she said. Day said her son doesn’t mind his story being told publicly, but he does not want his name to be used.


In Brunswick, school administrators and students reported less usage of vaping products in October after a citywide ban of flavored products began in June, according to the Times Record. About 17% of high school students statewide had tried a vaping product in the previous 30 days, according to a 2021 Maine Integrated Youth Health Survey, the latest survey available.

South Portland was the most recent city to enact a ban, with the City Council voting on Dec. 20 to prohibit the sale of flavored tobacco products starting on April 1.

Linda Cohen was one of two South Portland city councilors to vote against the citywide ban. Cohen said a statewide ban would be fairer to retailers than a city ban because they would all be operating under the same rules, but she’s still against a statewide ban. Cohen pointed out that banning flavors would also affect adults, as the legal age to purchase any tobacco products in Maine is 21.

“I don’t think it is my place to be telling other adults what they can or cannot do with their body,” Cohen said.

Cohen said she’s not in favor of flavored nicotine products, but other unhealthy products – such as alcohol and marijuana – are legal for adults in Maine and sometimes find their way to teens.

“I don’t want kids to have (flavored nicotine), but I don’t want kids to have alcohol and marijuana either,” Cohen said.

Cashman said “these products are getting into the hands of kids” and potentially getting them addicted to nicotine for many years.

“Statistics are showing a good number of people who start smoking do so with flavored products, and that’s what’s getting them hooked,” Cashman said.

Staff writer Lana Cohen contributed to this report.

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