Michael (Mike) Bourque is a resident of Portland, Maine, President and CEO of MEMIC, and volunteer leader for American Heart Association (AHA) in Maine. He received the Crystal Heart Award at the 2020 Maine Go Red for Women Luncheon for helping to make Maine a better place to live, work, and play through his commitment to the well-being of Mainers.
Mike’s heart story began with the sudden passing of a well-loved coworker – John. Mike was only a year older than John, who had passed from an undiagnosed heart condition. This tragic loss led him to become a very active member of the Heart Challenge Executive Leadership Team for the Heart Walk in Maine. He has been instrumental in connecting the AHA with industry leaders to move our mission forward. In addition, Mike played a key advocacy role in Portland, ME helping the city to become the second city in Maine to eliminate the sale of flavored tobacco.
Being a father, he said this was an easy campaign to say yes to. In an opinion editorial that was published in the Portland Herald Mike wrote:
“Together, my wife and I have four children, all recent high school graduates. They all had friends who took up vaping flavored tobacco and at least two of them joined in, not aware of the potential harm. Today, several years later, even though they fully realize the harm that can be done, they are having a hard time quitting. They’re addicted. Neither they, nor many of their friends, can stop.
My kids both started using flavored tobacco in their early teens. They became addicted quickly and it was rampant in school. Our schools know vaping is a problem, but can’t do much to stop it. Many kids who vape start at a young age, and it can be hard to detect. The devices are often sleek and discreet and can resemble school supplies, like a USB drive or a highlighter, so as a parent you don’t necessarily find anything that obviously points to your kids vaping. And there is no telltale smell of smoke like with regular cigarettes.”
When asked about why advocacy is important, Mike said that it sometimes does not take much input to help move an issue. He believes lawmakers want to hear from constituents and if you take the time to reach out to them you will see the results you want. He also said that it’s important to contact the lawmakers because it holds them accountable. Personal stories make a difference in the way lawmakers vote.
Mike is looking forward to seeing the law take effect and helping with the state campaign to eliminate the sale of flavored tobacco throughout the state!