Recovery from a substance use disorder is not only possible — it’s transformative for individuals, families, and communities.

Our actions create ripple effects, whether we are on our own journey of recovery, or helping others do the same. Most people in recovery will tell you that the only thing better than recovery would have been to never have tangled with addictive substances in the first place.

Is addiction prevention possible? The industries of addiction, including the tobacco industry, want us to throw up our hands and say that addiction is inevitable — that our kids are going to use addictive substances and there is nothing we can do about it. Nonsense!

We wholeheartedly reject this cynical and sinister view of our children’s future. Instead, we’re calling on Maine policymakers to help us do what adults should always do — fight like hell to give our young people the opportunity to grow up healthy and hopeful, free from addiction, and fully able to pursue their personal and professional dreams. That fight starts with tobacco.

There is a bill being considered by the Maine Legislature that could go a long way toward making freedom from addiction a reality in Maine. L.D. 1215 would end the use of menthol, fruit, and candy flavorings in tobacco products. This bill would not place any prohibitions on nicotine, nor on the ways it can be delivered. The availability of vaping devices, pouches, chewing tobacco, cigars, and cigarettes would be untouched. Only the flavored products would be removed.

Why focus on flavors? The tobacco industry’s entire business model is based on brain science. For young, developing brains, only a few tries of tobacco — sometimes even just one try — is all it takes to begin the neurological changes that result in addiction. Tobacco companies design youth-centered products and marketing campaigns accordingly.


Flavors, especially menthol, make it much easier to experiment with nicotine and then harder to quit and recover. Tobacco companies now have thousands of flavored products, which they market to young people with the promise of inclusion and belonging. Product curiosity and preference are telegraphed through friends, family, and even social media influencers. Post-pandemic, youth are particularly vulnerable to these tactics, as many are experiencing high levels of depression and anxiety.

Still skeptical about the role of flavors? The data speak for itself: 97% of Maine high school students who currently use e-cigarettes are using flavored products.

We are tired of watching Maine’s young people get lured into using products designed for a lifetime of addiction while the perpetrators continue to hide in plain sight, cloaked in legitimacy behind “legal products for adults” and shielded from regulation in the name of “freedom” and “choice.”

Let’s be clear: there is no freedom in addiction. And there certainly is no choice. There’s just a relentless cycle of discomfort, pain, and self-blame. It’s time to call out the number one predator and peddler of addiction: the tobacco industry.

Many people actively using nicotine, and even a few treatment providers, mistakenly believe that tobacco use is “the least of our worries” when seeking recovery from alcohol, opioids, or other addictive substances. Too often, tobacco use is ignored altogether, or worse, promoted as helping to reduce dependency on other drugs. All this, despite tobacco’s record of death and disease, its proven connection to developing and sustaining addictions to other substances, and the benefits of concurrent treatment of nicotine addiction when seeking treatment and recovery from other substances.

Like so many of us in the recovery and medical communities, we support L.D. 1215 and its harm reduction approach of limiting the tobacco industry’s use of dangerous product additives — in this case, menthol and other fruit and candy flavorings.

Prevention is a team sport, and lawmakers have a central role to play in preventing chronic illness and protecting children. Together, let’s stand up to a destructive industry that sees Maine’s youth as a profit center and is willing to twist data, stoke fear, and promote blatant untruths to avoid any regulatory guardrails. Let’s finally confront an industry that has addicted our ancestors, our family members, our friends, and our neighbors — causing devastating disease and early death for so many.

Together, we can stand up for recovery by preventing addiction. And in doing so, we’ll show our kids that we’re fighting for them and their futures — giving every one of them the opportunity to grow up healthy, hopeful, and tobacco free.

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