An effort to ban flavored tobacco products in Maine faces an uncertain future after the Legislature adjourned Wednesday without a decision on the bill, effectively tabling the proposal until the next legislative session that starts in January.

The bill passed narrowly in the Senate, but never came up for a vote in the House.

“I’m worried,” said state Rep. Margaret Craven, D-Lewiston, a bill supporter and member of the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee. “I don’t think we had enough support to pass it.”

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Jill Duson, D-Portland, was approved by the Senate in an 18-16 vote, with four Democrats joining all Republicans in opposition.

“If we had had the votes in the House, we would have put it forward for a vote,” Craven said. “There was heavy industry lobbying against it.”

Rep. Drew Gattine, D-Westbrook, disagrees with Craven’s assessment that the bill didn’t have sufficient House support.


“I wouldn’t read too much into the fact that it didn’t get a vote,” Gattine said. “I think it has a lot of really good momentum. We had an awful lot on our plate. There were a lot of things carried over into the next session, and this was one of them.”

The bill remains a high priority for public health advocates in Maine. They say flavored products are one reason that vaping by the state’s high school students has skyrocketed.

But opponents argued that many adults use flavored vaping products as a way to quit smoking more dangerous cigarettes. And they argued that consumers would just go to New Hampshire to buy the products.

The Mills administration supported the bill, and officials from the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention testified in favor.

Dan Cashman, spokesman for Flavors Hook Kids Maine, a group that has advocated for the ban of such products, said amendments delayed possible implementation from 2024 until 2025, and the sense of urgency was lost.

“I am confident it will get passed at some point,” Cashman said. “It’s a good policy and a lot of people throughout the state think it’s a good policy. When it’s this much of a problem, it’s up to adults to step in and protect the health and safety of the kids.”


The bill would ban flavors such as mint, fruit, chocolate, menthol, vanilla and honey in all tobacco, including vaping products. The federal government already bans flavors, except for menthol, in cigarettes, but allows them in vaping products. Some Maine cities and towns, including Portland, South Portland, Brunswick, Bangor, Bar Harbor and Rockland, have passed local measures banning sales of flavored tobacco.

Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, California, Maryland and Utah have bans or restrictions on the sale of flavored vaping products, with Massachusetts and California enacting the most comprehensive bans.

Lost tax revenue from sales, and other costs, means the bill would have cost an estimated $24.5 million to implement, according to a fiscal note completed by legislative analysts.

Those opposed, including Republicans and those representing the tobacco and vaping industries, argued that adults should be free to choose whether they want flavors in their tobacco products.

“Enacting a flavored tobacco ban would ultimately result in tax revenue being exported to New Hampshire,” said Jacob Posik, legislative affairs director for the Maine Policy Institute, a right-leaning think tank. “It would undermine Maine government, and hurt free choice and free markets.”

Posik said the price tag of the bill may have given Democrats pause, especially with all the other spending priorities that needed to be funded. The budget included some expensive Democratic priorities, such as transportation, paid family leave, child care subsidies and housing bills.


However, public health advocates point to a health care cost savings over time, with fewer people becoming addicted to nicotine.

Matt Wellington, associate director of the Maine Public Health Association, said “tobacco use is one of the leading causes of preventable death and disease in Maine.”

Wellington said he’s hopeful, after seeing the bill’s progress during the 2023 legislative session, and added that it will be a major priority for 2024.

“If we had to tackle any health issue, this is the one to prioritize,” Wellington said. “Flavors are a major driver of youth initiation to tobacco use.”

Leah Day, a South Portland resident who joined the Flavors Hook Kids Maine effort, said it was disappointing to see the bill fail to secure a vote in the House.

“It’s a setback, and it’s hard to know that we have to exert more energy over something that seems relatively basic to me,” Day said. “It’s hard to maintain that kind of effort.”

Craven said advocates will need to double down on their efforts if they want to see the bill become law.

“They need to understand that if we couldn’t get it across the line this time, they need to work harder next session and be better prepared to get enough votes for it,” Craven said.

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