Opinion: Portland, Maine, Could Ban Flavored Tobacco Products, and Why That’s a Good Thing
Imagine you’re 13 years old and you’re stumbling along the cobblestone streets of the Old Port with your family. You’re out for ice cream and window shopping at the local stores with funny knick-knacks and punny shirts.
A breeze glides off the harbor, picks up a puff of vapor, and wafts it right in front of your face.
Mmmmm. Strawberry. Or is that watermelon?
Whatever the fruit, it smells delicious. You glance over at the teenagers nearby where the scrumptious smell is coming from and you notice a group of people who don’t look that much older than you. The yummy scent is blowing out of their mouths like steam out of a train.
If it smells that good, you can’t imagine how it must taste, right? Like candy?
According to an article by John Hopkins Medicine, the flavorings like apple pie and watermelon appeal to young users, and the e-cigarettes do not have the stigma that traditional cigarettes do.
Michael Joseph Blaha, M.D., M.P.H., director of clinical research at the Johns Hopkins Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Heart Disease shares:
"What I find most concerning about the rise of vaping is that people who would've never smoked otherwise, especially youth, are taking up the habit. It's one thing if you convert from cigarette smoking to vaping. It's quite another thing to start up nicotine use with vaping. And, it often leads to using traditional tobacco products down the road."
What used to be teenagers wanting to fit in or feel something with a cigarette now could be kids with oral fixations with access to something that genuinely tastes good that they can even get away with smoking indoors.
In fact, "kids are being inundated with marketing" said Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, in a 2016 NBC News article.
CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden also was quoted in the same story as saying, “The same advertising tactics the tobacco industry used years ago to get kids addicted to nicotine are now being used to entice a new generation of young people to use e-cigarettes.”
Because of this health concern, there is a national movement to ban these types of products.
And on a local level, according to an article in the Portland Press Herald, Portland, Maine, has proposed a ban on flavored tobacco products, which would make it the second city to enact such a ban with Bangor being the first just last month. If passed, the ban would tentatively go into effect in June 2022, not far after Bangor’s June 1 start date.
The products at stake in the proposed ban are, “any tobacco product that imparts a taste or smell, other than the taste or smell of tobacco, either prior to, or during the consumption of, a tobacco product, including, but not limited to, any taste or smell relating to fruit, menthol, mint, wintergreen, chocolate, cocoa, vanilla, honey, or any candy, dessert, alcoholic beverage, herb, or spice.”
If you’re just a weed-smoker, take a deep breath, unless you dabble in flavored rolling papers, blunt or hemp wraps. The ban doesn’t include cannabis products that aren’t made from tobacco and nicotine, but it does affect your favorite Backwoods wraps.
There is absolutely no reason that tobacco and nicotine products should smell or taste good.
I personally can not think of one sound argument for why flavored products should exist in the market. If you’re going to push back and say it will lead people back to cigarettes, I still think it’s better than having additives on the shelf that taste and smell appealing.
At least with cigarettes, there are few times and places where it is accessible and acceptable. Cigarettes are socially frowned upon and have developed a negative stigma around them and the rancid smell sticks to you.
With flavored products, it is more acceptable to smoke them in public, folks are more apt to ask for some because they’re attracted to the taste, and it’s easier to get addicted to something you are not only enjoying the head high from but also the taste and smell.
It is also said that vaping is a way to help smokers quit cigarettes, but I have unfortunately also met people who have picked cigarettes back up to quit vaping. And while we’re on the topic of personal anecdotes, teachers in my life have told many stories of 5th graders getting caught in the school bathroom smoking flavored cigarettes because of the taste.
I won’t lie, I have benefited from fruity e-cigarettes and sweet hemp wraps. I understand the appeal, and the letdown you might feel with a ban like this being enacted. But, we can’t deny that these nicotine products we are consuming are nothing but bad for us and this is a major public health concern.
We need the push. Out of sight out of mind. If you don’t have the option for something or it’s difficult to acquire, you’re more likely to break the habit and give up. If the ban bothers you, just think about the kids. We may have buckled under pressure and candied advertising, but there is hope in saving the next generation from unnecessary nicotine addictions.