STATEWIDE — The American Lung Association gave Maine some of the highest grades in the nation, but there is still a lot of work to be done.
“A lot of people think we solved the tobacco problem but these numbers show that we haven’t,” said American Lung Association spokesman Lance Boucher.
Out of the five grades given, Maine received three As, one C, and an F.
Boucher said there is room for improvement.
“We have an adult smoking rate that is higher than the national average. One in four kids are using electronic cigarettes. And 33 percent are using some form of tobacco products,” he said.
The F Maine received was in a new section added this year.
The American Lung Association wants to remove all flavored tobacco, which Maine has yet to do.
“Almost 50 percent of youth start with menthol. These flavors really mask the harshness of tobacco products and lead kids to be addicted for a lifetime,” said Bouche.
He said it will be up to lawmakers to enact changes, including hiking the tobacco tax from $2 to $4.
“It has not happened in Maine for 16 years. We used to be one of the leaders in the nation but now our taxes are one of the lowest in the northeast,” said Boucher.
Boucher said the COVID-19 pandemic has shed an even brighter light on respiratory illness.
He said prevention programs are critical.
“The CDC has indicated that smoking can cause more severe symptoms and increase your risk,” said Boucher.
He added they have a comprehensive legislative campaign which will include removing flavors, fully funding the tobacco prevention program, and increasing sales tax.
According to the American Lung Association, smoking is the leading cause of preventable deaths and disease in both the nation and in Maine.