Testimony: Municipal Preemption on Flavored Tobacco Bans (LD 662)


Testimony in Support of LD 662, “An Act to Prohibit Municipal Flavored Tobacco Product Bans
on State-licensed Tobacco Retailers”

Senator Nangle, Representative Stover, and the distinguished members of the Committee on State and Local Government, my name is Nick Murray and I serve as director of policy for Maine Policy Institute. We are a free market think tank, a nonpartisan, non-profit organization that advocates for individual liberty and economic freedom in Maine. Thank you for the opportunity to testify on LD 662.

We commend Rep. Perry for submitting this bill, for seeing past the millions of dollars in advertising from the California-funded and nationally-organized groups pushing misguided and failing tobacco policy across the country, and in cities across Maine. Their stated goal is a statewide ban; these local bans are merely a tactic to desensitize voters in the population centers to accepting a statewide ban.

We need only look to our regional neighbor, Massachusetts, to find out just how disastrous a statewide flavored tobacco ban would be here.

In 2019, Governor Charlie Baker signed into law a bill that instituted a ban on all flavored tobacco products in the state and a new 75% tax on e-cigarettes. The state Department of Revenue projected that, even with the extra tax, the ban would still cost Massachusetts $93 million over the fiscal year. The ban went into effect that June.

In June 2020, a year after the ban, regional tobacco usage had not changed; sales just moved across the border, primarily to low-tax New Hampshire. The results were substantially lower earnings for Massachusetts store owners and employees, and nearly $127 million less in tax revenue in the first 12 months after the ban.

Proponents argue that stricter regulations on e-cigarettes, or electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS), will keep them from falling into the hands of youth, but all these policies do is keep legal products from consenting adults. The law already prohibits providing these products to minors. 

Many adults use these products to reduce the harm of their nicotine addiction. By substituting ENDS for combustible cigarettes, users greatly reduce their risks for cancer and other diseases arising from exposure to cigarette smoke. Flavors are an important tool in helping adults to quit cigarettes. A 2019 NIH study found that users who switch from combustibles to ENDS are much more likely to “rate flavors as important to their ENDS use.”

In reality, flavored e-cigarette restrictions are backfiring. They do not protect youth from the dangerous health effects of tobacco use. An analysis from the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) found that “the health costs from greater youth smoking as a result of e-cigarette taxes may undercut or even outweigh benefits from reduced youth e-cigarette vaping.”

A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Pediatrics found that a local flavored tobacco and vape ban implemented in San Francisco also did not work, and instead pushed youth to use traditional cigarettes.

 In its 2023 Annual Report, Massachusetts State Multi-Agency Illegal Tobacco Task Force noted that the ban has increased incentive for smugglers by increasing the differences in cross-state tobacco regulations, leading to greater seizures and law enforcement needs. Mainers should expect to see these same dynamics at play on the local borders as well, should these California-inspired activists get their way.

Please deem LD 662 “Ought To Pass” and send a message that this Legislature should embrace a philosophy of harm reduction instead of prohibition. Thank you for your time and consideration.