In response to new data showing an increase in e-cigarette use among Maine youth, Governor Janet Mills announced on November 13, 2019 that her Administration will launch an education and prevention campaign targeted to young people to raise awareness about the dangers of e-cigarette use and will move to eliminate provision in state law that still allows some individuals under the age of 21 to buy tobacco products.
“Vaping poses a serious risk to the health of young people across Maine, and as this disturbing data shows, far too many are drawn in by the false allure of e-cigarettes,” said Governor Janet Mills. “Young people know that smoking cigarettes is dangerous to their health. Now, it is important they understand that vaping is also dangerous. My Administration will launch an education and prevention campaign to aid in that effort. We will also accelerate the implementation of Maine’s law requiring buyers of tobacco products to be at least 21 years old. There should be no exceptions to this important law that protects public health.”
“We want all Maine people, especially our youth, to be aware of the health risks associated with electronic cigarettes,” said Maine Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew. “The Maine CDC is launching a prevention and outreach campaign in early 2020 to inform young people and their families about the dangers these products pose.”
In early 2020, the Administration, through the Maine Center for Disease Control (CDC), will launch a full-scale education and prevention campaign that will speak directly to young people through social media, YouTube, TV, radio, and other platforms to warn them about the dangers and risks associated with e-cigarette use. It will be followed by outreach to educate parents about the dangers of vaping and will be funded with revenue from the sales of e-cigarette products.
The Administration will also move to eliminate a provision in state law that still allows some individuals under the age of 21 to purchase tobacco products, including e-cigarettes. The minimum age to buy tobacco products in Maine is 21, which is the result of a law that took effect in July 2018. However, a provision in the law allows individuals who had turned 18 as of July 1, 2018 to continue to buy tobacco products lawfully. The Administration will introduce legislation in the upcoming short session that, if passed, will eliminate the provision and immediately require all individuals who want to purchase tobacco products to be at least 21 years of age.
In the coming weeks, the Administration will also work with the Legislature to explore other strategies related to e-cigarette use that could help protect the health and welfare of Maine’s youth.
These new actions come in the wake of Governor Mills signing into law in May a bill that bans e-cigarettes use on school property. It also comes in the wake of her direction to Maine CDC to work with the Maine Office of the Attorney General to pursue increased compliance checks on e-cigarette purchases at retailers throughout Maine to prevent sales to youth. Maine already conducts these checks on both electronic and combustible cigarettes but has boosted the focus on e-cigarettes. Maine also already bans all online sales of e-cigarette products and licenses tobacco product sellers to ensure oversight.
Earlier today, the Maine CDC released data showing that 28.7 percent of Maine high school students report currently using e-cigarettes (at least one time in the past 30 days), an increase from 15.3 percent in 2017. The increase aligns with the most recent data from the National Youth Tobacco Survey, which show that 27.5 percent of high school students throughout the United States report having used e-cigarettes within the past 30 days, an increase from 11.7 percent in 2017.
The number of Maine high school students who report ever having used an e-cigarette product increased from 33.2 percent in 2017 to 45 percent in 2019. While the number of high school students who reported current use of conventional cigarettes dropped from 8.8 percent in 2017 to 7.1 percent in 2019.
“Notably, the 2019 responses show a decrease in the percentage of Maine students who smoke or use other forms of conventional tobacco products,” said Nirav D. Shah, Director of the Maine CDC. “Young people in Maine are getting the message that tobacco use is dangerous. But they need to realize that vaping also poses great risks to their health.”
Additionally, Maine CDC and the Maine Department of Education continue to work with partners across the state to help prevent young people from initiating use of and exposure to e-cigarettes. A workgroup has met regularly to create educational resources and presentations to increase awareness.
Governor Mills continues to urge all Maine people to be fully aware of the health risks associated with using electronic smoking devices, including vaping, and to consult their health care provider if they experience symptoms of lung illness after using such devices.