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Michigan becomes the first state to ban flavored e-cigarettes after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued an emergency rule, saying the products are marketed toward children.
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer this week issued an emergency rule to ban flavored e-cigarettes in the state, saying the move was necessary to protect children who become addicted to nicotine after sampling vaping products marketed toward minors.
“My number one priority is keeping our kids safe. Right now, 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,” Whitmer said on Twitter on Wednesday. “That ends today.”
The ban prevents both online and brick-and-mortar retailers from selling sweet and fruity flavors of tobacco (Whitmer’s office specifically mentioned bubble gum, unicorn frappe, Nerds and apple juice), as well as menthol and mint flavors. Tobacco-flavored e-cigarettes are not affected.
The rule lasts for six months and can be renewed for another six months before being subjected to the state’s administrative rules process, which is controlled by the legislature. Michigan lawmakers were not apprised of the emergency declaration ahead of time but were not formally contesting it.
In a statement, e-cigarette company Juul Labs said it agreed that “kid-appealing flavors” should be banned outright, but said that menthol-based products should remain available as an option for adults 21 and over who are looking to stop smoking traditional cigarettes.
In June, Whitmer signed two bills that amended the state’s youth tobacco policy to outlaw the sale of nicotine vapor products to minors and to require child-resistant packaging on liquid nicotine containers. The changes also prohibited minors from having or using vapor products, but Whitmer said at the time she felt the laws did not go far enough in preventing children from using nicotine.
The ban comes as federal health officials investigate nearly 200 cases of severe lung disease among vapers in 22 states, all reported since June.
The move makes Michigan the first state to outright ban the sale of flavored e-cigarettes, though other states and cities have restricted the product. Fifteen states have raised the legal age to purchase tobacco products to 21, and San Francisco in June became the first U.S. city to ban the sale and distribution of all e-cigarettes.
Numerous health organizations, including the American Heart Association and the Preventing Tobacco Addiction Foundation, applauded Whitmer for her action. But Michigan’s ban is likely to face legal challenges, including a potential lawsuit from the American Vaping Association, according to Gregory Conley, the organization’s president.
“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,” he wrote in a statement on the group’s website. “These businesses and their customers will not go down without a fight. We look forward to supporting the lawsuits that now appear necessary to protect the right of adults to access these harm reduction products.”
Kate Elizabeth Queram is a Staff Correspondent for Route Fifty and is based in Washington, D.C.
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