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Maine Health Groups Applaud Biden Proposal To Ban Menthol Cigarettes

Menthol Cigarette Ban
Jeff Chiu
Associated press
FILE - This May 17, 2018 file photo shows packs of menthol cigarettes and other tobacco products at a store in San Francisco. On Thursday, April 29, 2021, the Food and Drug Administration pledged again to try to ban menthol cigarettes, this time under pressure from African American groups to remove the mint flavor popular among Black smokers.

Some Maine health groups are applauding the Biden administration’s proposal to ban menthol cigarettes and all flavored cigars.

But it could take a while for the federal ban to take effect — in part because the tobacco industry could file a lawsuit to stop it — and those groups say that more urgent action is needed to prevent tobacco use and associated diseases in Maine.

Hilary Schneider is the Maine director of government relations for the American Cancer Society’s advocacy arm. She says that kids, people of color and other vulnerable groups are disproportionately targeted by the marketing of menthol cigarettes.

“We know that menthol cigarettes are arguably the most dangerous flavored tobacco product. Menthol flavoring makes it easier to start and become addicted to cigarettes. It masks the harsh flavor of tobacco and numbs the throat, so essentially it makes it easier for the poison to go down," she says.

One bill now before the Maine Legislature, L.D. 1550, would ban the sale of all flavored tobacco products in the state. That would include flavored chewing tobacco and electronic cigarettes, and a much wider range of flavors than just menthol. The bill is scheduled for a hearing in the health and human services committee at 9 a.m. May 7.

Schneider says that Maine has some of the highest rates of smoking-related cancer cases and deaths in the nation.