Over the past year or so, we have seen six communities in Maine enact comprehensive local ordinances removing flavored tobacco products from their shelves in Bangor, Bar Harbor, Brunswick, Portland, Rockland and South Portland. Those communities passed the local ordinances overwhelmingly, and recent polling has been released that also shows large numbers of Mainers support ending the sale of flavored tobacco products statewide.

L.D. 1215 would ban the use of flavors in all tobacco products sold in Maine, including vape liquid, above. John Terhune/The Forecaster, File

As a law enforcement officer and county sheriff, I work every day to make sure Maine kids are safe and able to learn and grow. So it’s easy for me to say that without hesitation, I also strongly support this policy.

We have seen tobacco companies work for decades to target young people in their marketing of tobacco products. Flavored tobacco is central to their strategy. Mango mint, cotton candy, banana ice and menthol are not only flavors that are supposed to catch the eye of young people, but they are also flavors that will mask the harsh taste of tobacco, getting kids hooked more quickly as they come back for more.

It seems so simple: We all know tobacco puts our kids’ health and well-being at risk, so we shouldn’t stand by and allow kids to be targeted by tobacco companies. And we certainly shouldn’t let them be targeted with products that will make them more likely to smoke or vape. Yet this is exactly what is happening, right under our noses. This is exploitation of our children.

We have a duty and a responsibility to stand up to an industry that preys on our kids with deadly products, products that lure them and hook them, changing how their brains develop and grow, impacting their success in school and sports – which I have seen firsthand – addicting them to nicotine, and too often causing disease and even early death.

Tobacco companies want us to stand by and do nothing. They use misinformation and outright lies to create fear and inertia – keeping us unresponsive to the threat to our children’s health unfolding before our eyes.

Some of their current tactics are particularly offensive to those of us in law enforcement, so let’s get clear about a few things: This is not the War on Drugs. This legislation is not prohibition. It will not create more crime. It does not prohibit anyone from using nicotine products, vaping products or any other drug for harm reduction. It does not create any criminal or civil penalties for buying, using or possessing flavored tobacco. And if the purchase, use and possession of these products is not prohibited, then the idea of an “illicit market” forming for them is not serious. It’s just another deceptive scare tactic from an industry that is famous for them.

The bill, L.D. 1215, An Act To End the Sale of Flavored Tobacco Products, is not about adults at all. It is about protecting young people in the state of Maine by keeping products designed to addict them unavailable in our stores.

The tobacco industry has a long history of trying to increase youth smoking. This is no different. Maine has the opportunity to lead the way and ensure flavored tobacco products are no longer an option for our kids. I urge the Legislature to vote in favor of L.D. 1215, ending the sale of flavored tobacco products in Maine once and for all.

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