In this Sept. 6, 2019, file photo, Barbara Ferrer, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, walks past a poster reading: "Progress Erased: Flavored Tobacco and the e-cigarette epidemic among youth," as the county announced the first known death associated with e-cigarette vaping in Los Angeles. Credit: Damian Dovarganes / AP

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As a volunteer leader with the American Lung Association, and as a respiratory therapist with 30 years of experience in treating patients suffering from tobacco-related illnesses, I strongly advocate for ending the sale of flavored tobacco in Maine. I have witnessed firsthand the devastating impact of these products on the respiratory health of individuals and believe it is time we take decisive action to protect the well-being of our youth.

Flavored tobacco, with its enticing tastes like fruit, candy and menthol, not only mask the harshness of tobacco, but also lure young people into a dangerous habit. The prevalence of these products among our youth has profound implications for their lung health and overall quality of life.

Countless studies have established that flavored tobacco acts as a gateway, enticing young people to initiate tobacco use and subsequently becoming addicted for life. By halting the sale of these products, we can effectively deter the initiation of tobacco use and shield our youth from a lifetime of respiratory complications and diminished lung function.

As a dedicated health care professional, I implore our esteemed lawmakers in Augusta to prioritize the respiratory well-being of Mainers by ending the sale of flavored tobacco. Let us unite to protect the lungs of Mainers, particularly the vulnerable younger generation, and create a healthier future for Maine.

Diane Haskell