Michigan First to Ban Flavored E-Cigarettes

By: - September 4, 2019 12:00 am

A 15-year-old high school student uses a vaping device near a school campus in Massachusetts. Michigan became the first state to outlaw flavored nicotine electronic cigarettes in a bid to make them less attractive to young people. Steven Senne/The Associated Press

Michigan became the first state to ban flavored nicotine electronic cigarettes, in what Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said is an attempt to dissuade underage kids and teens from using the products and becoming addicted to nicotine.

In a statement issued by her office, the Democrat said the action will “protect Michigan kids from the harmful effects of vaping.”

Hospitalizations and serious lung injuries related to e-cigarettes have been reported across the country, many involving teenagers, for whom vaping has become increasingly popular. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a warning in late August, cautioning against buying vaping products “off the street” and recommending that anyone with breathing issues after vaping seek medical attention immediately.

The statement from Whitmer’s office said despite laws she signed in June making it illegal to sell e-cigarettes to minors, companies continue to market the vaping products to youngsters using cartoon characters, sweet flavors and other advertising. She said the ads are designed to “create new nicotine addicts.”

Whitmer said the increase in youth vaping is “likely fueled by the availability of flavors akin to apple juice, bubble gum and Nerds.”

But Gregory Conley, president of the American Vaping Association, argued the e-cigarettes are less dangerous than ordinary tobacco products and predicted the governor’s “shameless attempt at backdoor prohibition” will lead to the closing of hundreds of small Michigan businesses like convenience stores. His group and others will be filing lawsuits to reverse the action, he added.

“Governor Whitmer’s ban will create a massive, multi-million dollar black market for these products, which are the same conditions that led to the recent spate of lung illnesses that are now clearly linked to illegal THC vaping products,” he said in a statement. THC is the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.

“The CDC is now specifically warning against vaping homemade vaping products, yet this is the exact kind of behavior that a state-instituted flavor ban will lead to,” he said.

A 2018 surgeon general’s report said e-cigarettes have become, since 2014, the most commonly used tobacco product among American youth. E-cigarette use among U.S. middle and high school students increased 900% from 2011 to 2015, the report said. States have begun passing restrictions and taxes on e-cigarettes in response.

Use declined for the first time from 2015 to 2017, but then rose again. It increased 78% among high school students, from 11.7% in 2017 to 20.8% in 2018.

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Elaine S. Povich
Elaine S. Povich

Elaine S. Povich covers education and consumer affairs for Stateline. Povich has reported for Newsday, the Chicago Tribune and United Press International.