The federal Food and Drug Administration visited Maine recently to award a $2.1 million, three-year tobacco compliance and enforcement contract to the state.

It was the second enforcement grant awarded to Maine by the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products, which was developed in 2009 to provide oversight and regulation to tobacco products manufactured and sold in the United States.

The Maine Public Health Association commends the FDA for its accomplishments in regulating tobacco products over the past two years and the progress Maine has made in keeping young people from using these deadly products.

Between 1997 and 2007, Maine’s high school smoking rate dropped by 64 percent.

The state’s comprehensive tobacco prevention and control program, the Attorney General’s Office’s tobacco enforcement activities, and tobacco tax increases all played significant roles in this achievement, as did the participation of Maine businesses.

In 2011, inspections showed that nearly 98 percent of Maine retailers were operating in compliance with state and federal tobacco access and carding laws.

Evaluation of these efforts is evidence that what the state and federal government is doing to combat tobacco use among children is working.

Unfortunately, the work is not done. The FDA’s award to the state is part of a comprehensive solution to keep tobacco out of the hands of kids; so are the new graphic warning labels released by the agency last month and bans on the sales of flavored cigarettes passed by Congress two years ago.

Combined with best-practice initiatives implemented in Maine to reduce youth smoking through education, countermarketing, tax increases and vigorous compliance checks, we can help the next generation of Mainers to live longer, healthier and more productive lives free from tobacco addiction.

Tina Pettingill

Maine Public Health Association

Augusta

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