U.S.|Amid Vaping Crackdown, Michigan to Ban Sale of Flavored E-Cigarettes
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan said Wednesday that she would outlaw the sale of flavored e-cigarettes in her state, part of a national crackdown on vaping amid a recent spike in illnesses tied to the products.
Ms. Whitmer, who would become the nation’s first governor to issue such a ban, said the decision came in response to increased e-cigarette use among teenagers and marketing that she said targeted youths. Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the state’s chief medical executive, called youth vaping a public health crisis.
“Companies selling vaping products are using candy flavors to hook children on nicotine and misleading claims to promote the belief that these products are safe,” Ms. Whitmer, a Democrat, said in a statement. “That ends today.”
The move in Michigan is part of a wave of growing pressure from politicians around the country for more regulation of e-cigarettes and their use by teenagers. Several state attorneys general have called for the federal government to ban flavored e-cigarettes, and bills to stop sales of flavored vaping products have been introduced in California and Massachusetts. In New York, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed a law raising the minimum age to purchase e-cigarettes to 21.
In recent weeks, public health agencies have reported a number of serious illnesses believed to be tied to vaping, including a death in Illinois, raising questions about the products’ safety at any age. This week, Oregon heath officials said they were investigating the death of another person, who had used a vaping device containing cannabis. The health department in Milwaukee and the Illinois attorney general have issued statements urging people not to use e-cigarettes. Earlier this year, San Francisco became the first American city to ban the sale of the products.
[Read more about the mysterious vaping illness that is becoming an epidemic.]
In Michigan, Ms. Whitmer’s order would ban the sale of flavored nicotine vaping products in stores and online. She also instructed state health officials to stop any advertising or marketing of the products that uses terms like “clean,” “safe,” or “healthy.” Tiffany Brown, a spokeswoman for Ms. Whitmer, said the new rules would be put in place in the next few weeks, and that businesses would then have a month to comply.
Because the rules had not been finalized, Ms. Brown said she could not answer questions about what penalties companies that violate the restrictions would face or how the online sales ban would be enforced. She said Ms. Whitmer’s administration was allowed to ban the products without legislative action because state laws allow such orders to protect public health and to respond to a health emergency.
Tony Abboud, the executive director of the Vapor Technology Association, an industry group, criticized the ban in a statement. He predicted that it would hurt small businesses in Michigan and create a black market for flavored e-cigarettes.
“The governor’s edict is not based on science or common sense,” Mr. Abboud said.
A statement from Juul Labs, one of the leading e-cigarette companies, said it favored a ban on flavors “that mimic candies or children’s foods,” but believed menthol-flavored e-cigarettes should be allowed.
Nancy Brown, the chief executive of the American Heart Association, praised the Michigan ban in a statement released by the governor’s office.
“In the absence of robust regulation by the Food and Drug Administration, we know shockingly little about the health impact of e-cigarettes being widely marketed to youth and adults,” she said. “The recent outbreak of respiratory illnesses associated with e-cigarette use has only added to the uncertainty and increased the need for immediate action.”
Jesse McKinley contributed reporting.