June 26, 2020
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Susan Collins and Angus King announced that the Maine Department of Health and Human Services has been awarded a total of $974,168 to combat tobacco use among Maine youth throughout the state. This funding was awarded through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office on Smoking and Health (OSH).
“The dramatic increase in the use of tobacco products—particularly e-cigarettes—by teens in Maine and throughout the country is threatening the progress we have made to reduce overall tobacco use,” said Senators Collins and King in a joint statement. “This investment is an important step forward to increase tobacco use prevention and awareness efforts throughout our state.”
Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable disease, disability, and death in the United States. According to the most recent data, youth e-cigarette usage has almost doubled since 2017, with an alarming 28.7 percent of Maine high school students currently using e-cigarettes. Among high school youth in Maine, more than seven percent of individuals reported smoking conventional cigarettes.
Senators Collins and King have long been champions of tobacco prevention efforts. In 1997, Senator Collins co-sponsored an amendment to repeal a $50 billion tax break for the tobacco industry. Earlier this year, Senator Collins joined a bipartisan group in introducing a bill to protect children from the dangers of e-cigarettes and hold e-cigarette companies accountable for the youth vaping crisis. The fiscal year 2020 end-of-year funding bill, which Senators Collins and King both supported, also raised the federal legal age for purchasing tobacco from 18 to 21. Senator Collins was a cosponsor of standalone legislation to raise the purchasing age.
Earlier this year, Senator King joined 29 of his Senate colleagues in sending a letter to Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn criticizing the agency’s failure to take all non-tobacco flavored e-cigarette products out of circulation given the public health risks they present – despite the administration’s September announcement to ban these products. In the letter, Senator King and his colleagues cite the role that flavored e-cigarettes play in the rapid rise of youth vaping nationwide. Senator King previously wrote to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in October urging HHS to remove non-tobacco flavored e-cigarettes from store shelves nationwide.
This funding, awarded through OSH’s National and State Tobacco Control Program, aims to prevent the initiation of commercial tobacco use among youth, eliminate exposure to secondhand smoke, promote quitting among adult and youth, and identify and eliminate tobacco-related disparities.