In Big Win for Kids, Portland,… | Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
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In Big Win for Kids, Portland, Maine,Votes to End Sale of Flavored Tobacco Products

Statement of Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
February 08, 2022

WASHINGTON, D.C. – By voting unanimously(9-0) to end the sale of flavored tobacco products – including flavored e-cigarettes, menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars – the Portland City Council(Maine) has taken bold action to protect kids from tobacco addiction, save lives and advance health equity. The Council’s action is the right move to stop the tobacco industry from addicting a new generation of kids.

The Council’s action will crack down on the tobacco industry’s most pernicious tactic for luring and addicting kids – the marketing of flavored products. It sets a terrific example for other Maine communities and the entire state to follow. We strongly urge Gov. Mills to again include language in her supplemental budget to end the sale of all flavored tobacco products – and we urge the legislature to pass it promptly. Voters throughout the state strongly support such action. A recent poll shows that almost two-thirds (64%) of likely Maine voters favor a law to end the sale of all flavored tobacco products.

Flavored products have fueled the current epidemic of youth e-cigarette use. Nationally, over 2 million kids use e-cigarettes, with a growing percentage of them using e-cigarettes frequently or daily – a sure sign of addiction. And 85% use flavored products. In Maine, 30.2% of high school students use e-cigarettes.

Flavored products have also long been a favorite tobacco industry strategy for targeting kids, Black Americans, Latinos, the LGBTQ community and other communities. Half of all kids who ever try smoking start with menthol cigarettes. The evidence shows that menthol makes it easier for kids to start smoking and harder for smokers to quit. Because of the tobacco industry’s predatory marketing, 85% of Black smokers now smoke menthol cigarettes, compared to less than 10% in the 1950s. Menthol cigarettes are a major reason why tobacco use is the number one cause of preventable death among Black Americans – claiming 45,000 Black lives every year – and why Black Americans have a harder time quitting smoking and are more likely to die from tobacco-related diseases like lung cancer, heart disease and stroke.

In addition, cheap, flavored cigars – sold in hundreds of flavors like cherry dynamite, tropical twist and chocolate – have flooded the market in recent years and fueled the popularity of these products with kids. According to the 2020 National Youth Tobacco Survey, cigars are now the most popular tobacco product among Black high school students and the second most popular tobacco product, after e-cigarettes, among all high school students. And half of all youth smokers smoke menthol cigarettes.