Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer moved last week to make Michigan the first state to ban flavored electronic cigarettes, charging the companies that manufacture electronic cigarettes and the “juices” they utilize of using candy flavors and deceptive advertising to “hook children on nicotine.”
Whitmer, a Democrat, ordered the state health department to issue emergency rules that will prohibit the sale of flavored nicotine vaping product, including to adults. Retailers will have 30 days to comply with the rules — which are almost certain to be challenged in court — once they are filed.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo called for a similar ban in New York last November, but the proposed rules were withdrawn.
The federal government and states ban the sale of vaping products to minors. Despite that, government survey figures show that last year one in five U.S. high school students reported vaping in the previous month. The surgeon general has flagged the trend as an epidemic, while Michigan’s chief medical executive determined that youth vaping constitutes a public health emergency.
Adding to the urgency is the fact that at least 215 possible cases of severe pulmonary disease associated with the use of e-cigarettes — six of which have been in Michigan — have been reported by 25 states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. At least two deaths have been linked to vaping.
The rise in teen vaping has, in the view of many, been driven primarily by flavored, cartridge-based products such as Juul. Juul’s executives have disputed allegations that they have marketed their products to teens, but government research has found nearly 80% of underage teens who use e-cigarettes and other tobacco products cited flavors when asked why they took up the habit.
Michigan State Rep. Beau LaFave, a Republican, criticized the governor’s decision, which came three months after she signed laws barring minors from using e-cigarettes.
“That’s an infringement on adults,” he said. “This has nothing to do with children.”
Gregory Conley, president of the American Vaping Association told The Associated Press, “This shameless attempt at backdoor prohibition will close down several hundred Michigan small businesses and could send tens of thousands of ex-smokers back to deadly combustible cigarettes. We look forward to supporting the lawsuits that now appear necessary to protect the right of adults to access these harm-reduction products.”
It’s a stretch to call e-cigarettes “harm-reduction products.” Most experts agree the aerosol that is vaporized by e-cigarettes is less harmful that cigarette smoke because it does not contain most of the cancer-causing byproducts of burning tobacco. But there is virtually no research on the long-term effects — read that “harm” — of the vaping chemicals, some of which are toxic.
Too, the vast majority of chemicals used in e-liquids have only been tested by ingesting them in small quantities. For most of the chemicals, there have been no tests to determine whether it is safe to inhale them, as happens when they are used in e-cigarettes.
Whitmer, in our view, is justified in being cautious when dealing with a product that is potentially harmful to children.
As we have said here before, the time is long past for the FDA to determine if vaping and the products used for vaping are safe.