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Gov. Whitmer orders a ban on flavored e-cigarettes

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Governor Gretchen Whitmer ordered the state health department to ban flavored nicotine vaping products on Wednesday.

In an interview with The Washington Post, Whitmer said vaping poses a public health emergency, and that gives her the authority to put a ban in place. She argues that sweet, appealing vape flavors such as bubblegum are designed to get young people hooked on nicotine. The ban does not include tobacco-flavored e-cigarettes.

Read more: The stark rise in teen vaping and what it means

Michigan is the first state to ban vaping products. The ban will apply to retail stores and online sales, and will be effective immediately once the rules are issued, although businesses have 30 days to comply. It will last six months, and can be renewed for another six months. The ban also prohibits the use of words such as "safe" and "clean" to describe vape products.

Dr. Joneigh Khaldun is Michigan’s Public Health Executive. She says the availability of flavored vaping products is a public health emergency.

“Some counties have seen as much as a doubling of e-cigarette use among high school students, and for many of them a flavored e-cigarette is what they use initially,” says Khaldun.

University of Michigan researcher Richard Miech studies vaping among teens. He echoes Khaldun's concerns about the rapid rise in poularity in vaping among teens. 

“So, the most current data, as of 2018, showed that among U.S. 12th graders, 1 in 5 has vaped nicotine in the past 30 days," says Miech. 

Listen to Stateside's conversation with Richard Miech above. 

Very few of those teens are using tobacco-flavored products, says Miech. Overwhlemingly, they are choosing fruity flavors like mango, or mint. Miech says that since vaping among teens is a realtively new phenomenon, we don't know for sure whether flavored nicotine products increase e-cigarette use among teens. But he says that Michigan's ban is a good opportunity to see if taking away flavored products reduces the number of teens vaping nicotine. 

The order from Whitmer comes after the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services recorded six respiratory illnesses associated with vaping over two months. The patients range in age from 19 to 39.

Whitmer banned the sale and use of e-cigarettes by minors in June.

The Food and Drug Administration and the surgeon general have called vaping among teens an "epidemic." While cigarette use has dropped markedly among middle and high school students, teen e-cigarette use has increased by 78% in the past year alone.

Gregory Conley is with the American Vaping Association. He says the governor’s exceeding the limits of her authority if she goes through with these rules even on a temporary basis.

“Governors are not kings or queens. Lawmakers are elected to make laws, not governors. Governors are elected to enforce laws, sign laws.”

Conley says someone in the vaping industry would likely file a state or federal lawsuit seeking to strike down the rules.

This post was updated Wednesday, Sept. 4 at 5:20 p.m.

Emma is a communications specialist with the digital team at Michigan Radio. She works across all departments at Michigan Radio, with a hand in everything from digital marketing and fundraising to graphic design and website maintenance. She also produces the station's daily newsletter, The Michigan Radio Beat.
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