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Lung Association Urges Maine to Raise Tobacco Taxes

AUGUSTA, Maine - The American Lung Association's annual report card awards Maine an "A" for its smoke-free air, but gives the state a "D" for tobacco taxes.

The association's director of public policy in Maine, Lance Boucher, says the state should levy an additional $1.50 tax to packs of cigarettes. "It's been 11 years since we've raised the cigarette tax in Maine. We used to be the highest in the region, and now we have the second lowest in the Northeast region."

Boucher says raising the cigarette tax is one of the most effective tobacco control strategies to reduce smoking. Nearly 20 percent of Maine adults smoke. For high schoolers, the rate is almost 13 percent.

The association also reports that nationwide, the number of high school kids who use e-cigarettes is doubling every year. In its State of Tobacco Control Report, the association finds that the number of high schoolers in Maine who use e-cigarettes is at an all time high.

"It's quite alarming, with over a third of Maine high school youth having used e-cigarettes - at least tried them," Boucher says. "And 18.4 percent of high school youth regularly uses electronic nicotine delivery systems."

The report card gave Maine "C" grade for tobacco prevention and control funding.