Menthol cigarettes and other tobacco products are displayed at a store in San Francisco on May 17, 2018. Credit: Jeff Chiu / AP

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According to recent government data, use of tobacco among kids is at historic lows. There are many reasons for this progress — ranging from the recent federal law raising the age to purchase tobacco to 21, as well as effective education and harm reduction strategies. But there’s another reason for the historically low rate of tobacco use among our youth — the responsible actions of retailers across the country.

Chances are that you’ve seen a Maine Smoke Shop — or maybe you’re even a customer at one of our 19 locations around the state. We are an employee-owned retailer that provides employment to nearly 100 Mainers — and we take seriously our role as a licensed seller of FDA-regulated tobacco products to adults. 

Like many other retailers who sell age-restricted tobacco products, we require ID for any potential customer who appears to be under the age of 30 to even enter our stores. Thanks to our regular training for employees — most of whom are parents themselves — and regular internal compliance checks, we’re proud to have a 99 percent ID compliance rate. Put simply: underage kids are not buying tobacco products at our stores or stores like ours. When it comes to curbing youth tobacco use, we are part of the solution.

The problem? An already-booming illicit tobacco market. And the Biden Administration’s latest move — a proposed federal criminal ban on flavored tobacco products — will further fuel this illegal market, undermining our progress in cutting youth tobacco use. We know that criminal bans and prohibition-style efforts do not succeed in curbing consumer demand for targeted products. We don’t even need to look as far back as alcohol prohibition — we can look at areas that have already locally banned flavored tobacco.

It’s time for real action and proven strategies like harm reduction, education and support — and to shelve this misguided attempt to revive Prohibition.

Christine Peters

Chief Operating Officer

Maine Smoke Shops

Old Town