AUGUSTA, MAINE – The Maine Legislature this morning took important steps to prevent and curb tobacco use and improve rural health care.
Legislators approved an amended version of L.D. 1028, which equalizes the tax on non-cigarette tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, to the same level as cigarettes. Maine’s tax rate on most non-cigarette tobacco products is the lowest in New England, and this tax loophole is costing Maine about $10 million per year in lost revenue that the tobacco industry is leveraging to addict new users. The bill passed by the Legislature today closes the tax loophole on tobacco products, like little cigars, cigars, loose tobacco and e-cigarettes.
A portion of the revenue generated by this measure will fund evidence-based tobacco prevention and cessation programs, and the remainder of the funds will help stabilize rural hospitals, clinics and ambulance services.
“Today’s vote is a huge step to stop tobacco use before it starts,” said Maine Government Relations Director Hilary Schneider. “We know that youth who use e-cigarettes are more likely to use combustible cigarettes compared to kids who do not, and tax increases on tobacco products are proven to dissuade purchases. Lung cancer is the most common and deadliest type of cancer for Mainers, and L.D. 1028 continues the already great work our state has done to try and eliminate the scourge of tobacco.”
Fully funding the state’s tobacco cessation and prevention programs, which this bill comes close to achieving when combined with funding increases passed as part of the biennial budget, is estimated to prevent 1,200 Maine children from eventually growing up to die prematurely from smoking and will save the state more than $77 million in tobacco-related health care costs.
“The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network and its advocates thank the Legislature for giving this important bill their bipartisan support, and we hope Gov. Janet Mills quickly signs it into law,” Schneider said.