Individuals and companies that were "cashing in" on the promotion of masks for prevention were being fined $22,000 and $100,000 respectively as a penalty, as there was no scientific evidence that they were effective. The same studies show this today with the new coronavirus, despite what "common sense" or logic may suggest.
Masks then were only possibly useful for 15-20 mins, after which they became damp from moisure from your breath, and they stopped doing their job, and actually increased your risks of respiratory infections.
Here's a link to a news article at the time:
Nothing has changed with the science, except that masks are being recommended and people are being fined for NOT wearing one (of any dubious quality or material), despite the evidence that they don't work.