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Old debates on regulation of e-cigarettes for minors cause concern for law enforcement


Law enforcement in Michigan wants to make it illegal for minors to possess vaping products and for retailers to sell e-cigarettes to minors. But an ongoing debate in the state Legislature has police and prosecutors frustrated.

Former Governor Rick Snyder vetoed legislation to ban the sale and possession of e-cigarettes for minors.

He said e-cigarettes should be classified and regulated like tobacco instead. But now, lawmakers in Lansing are trying to – once again – focus on the sale, not the classification.

D.J. Hilson is the president of the Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan. He says law enforcement just wants to stop minors from the potentially harmful effects of vaping.

“It’s crazy how this has just exploded in the last couple years,” he says. “I’ve been doing this long enough but it still aggravates the heck out of me when politics gets in the way of common sense.”

A University of Michigan study found that for 9th through 12th grades, there was an increase of more than one million nicotine vapers in 2018 compared to 2017.

Andrew Schepers is with the American Cancer Society. He says e-cigarettes could change, and then new legislation would be necessary unless they are broadly defined as tobacco products. 

“We’re looking to put together a solution that is lifelong lasting,” he says.

But supporters say the health organizations are trying to “make perfect the enemy of good.”

Before becoming the newest Capitol reporter for the Michigan Public Radio Network, Cheyna Roth was an attorney. She spent her days fighting it out in court as an assistant prosecuting attorney for Ionia County. Eventually, Cheyna took her investigative and interview skills and moved on to journalism. She got her masters at Michigan State University and was a documentary filmmaker, podcaster, and freelance writer before finding her home with NPR. Very soon after joining MPRN, Cheyna started covering the 2016 presidential election, chasing after Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and all their surrogates as they duked it out for Michigan. Cheyna also focuses on the Legislature and criminal justice issues for MPRN. Cheyna is obsessively curious, a passionate storyteller, and an occasional backpacker. Follow her on Twitter at @Cheyna_R
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