Over the past several years, Maine state lawmakers have attempted to address youth use of age-restricted tobacco and vapor products by introducing bans on the sale of flavored cigarettes and vapes. There’s good news for those eager policymakers as both youth tobacco and vapor product use has declined. As lawmakers prepare for 2023 legislative sessions, it is imperative they have the most recent data on youth use prior to bringing forth another flavor ban.

According to the Maine Integrated Healthy Youth Survey, in 2021, only 17.6% of high schoolers and 9.3% of middle schoolers reported trying combustible cigarettes, including just one puff. Since 2009, ever cigarette use among middle schoolers has declined by 50% and among high schoolers by 56.9%. Current use, defined as having smoked a cigarette on at least one occasion in the 30 days prior to the survey has also declined. Among high school students, only 5.5% reported current cigarette smoking, a 68.8% decline from 2009’s 17.6%. Among middle school students, current smoking has decreased by 73.6%, from 5.3% in 2021 to 1.4% in 2021.

Youth use of vapor products has also declined. In 2021, 31.7% of high school students had ever tried an e-cigarette and only 17.4% were currently vaping. Among middle school students, only 10.2% reported ever trying e-cigarettes and only 4.4% were current e-cigarette users.

Similar to other states and national data, youth vaping seems to have peaked in Maine in 2019. That year, 45.1% of high schoolers had tried e-cigarettes, and 28.7% were currently vaping. Between 2019 and 2021, ever-use of e-cigarettes declined by 29.7% and current use by 39.4%. Among middle school students in 2019, 16.3% reported trying vapor products and 7% were currently vaping. Ever- and current use of vapor products declined by 37.4% and 37.1%, respectively.

Smoking rates also continue to decline among adults in the Pine Tree State. In 2021, only 15.6% of adults were currently smoking—a 37.6% decrease from 1995 when one-fourth (25%) of adults were currently smoking. Among young adults, smoking rates are at their lowest levels recorded, with only 6.3% of adults aged 18 to 24 years old currently smoking in 2021.

While lawmakers have been concerned that youth vaping will lead to later cigarette use, there is no evidence to suggest that in Maine. Rather, the introduction and use of e-cigarettes have correlated with steep declines in traditional cigarette use.

In 2016, only 8.6% of young adults were currently using e-cigarettes in Maine, while 17.1% were currently smoking. In 2021, smoking rates declined by 63.2%, while vaping rates increased by 132.6%. Moreover, since 2017, young adult smoking rates have declined by 58.3%, with average annual declines of 17.1%.

As lawmakers in Maine prepare for the upcoming legislative session, it is of the utmost importance that they rely on updated data. Despite fear-mongering headlines, youth vaping is declining in Maine, and nationally, and lawmakers should refrain from banning adult access to flavored alternatives to cigarettes. As evidenced, the introduction of these harm reduction products has coincided with record lows in smoking rates.

Lindsey Stroud is a Visiting Fellow at Independent Women’s Forum, Director of the Taxpayers Protection Alliance’s Consumer Center, and a board member with the American Vapor Manufacturers Association.