DETROIT – Starting Wednesday, Oct. 2, Michigan vape shops will no longer be able to sell flavored e-cigarettes without being fined or serving possible jail time.
Flavored e-cigarettes come in flavors such as cotton candy and bubble gum, clearly targeting one type of smoker: Kids who otherwise wouldn't pick up a cigarette. The heath risks of these e-cigarettes are still unknown but proven to be dangerous.
Doctors are seeing kids being admitted to the emergency room. A hearing regarding this ban is set for Tuesday. Vape businesses are against the ruling, stating the emergency ruling goes against the state's normal lawmaking process. They are seeking a temporary restraining order on the ban.
"With the vapes taking over the cigarette market, and the flavors out-selling the plain 10 to one, it will affect us," said Jacob Ankawi, a gas station manager.
Vape shops are expected to sell off or destroy all flavored e-cigarette products by Wednesday to comply with the new law.
For now, judges on the federal and state level have declined to intervene in the state's decision to ban flavored e-cigarettes.
Violators could face 6 months of prison or fine
After Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced the ban last month, the state's Department of Health and Human Services said the ban was effective immediately and gave retailers, including online sellers, two weeks to comply. Those two weeks are up Oct. 2.
"Today’s filing is necessary to protect the public health," said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive and chief deputy director for health at MDHHS. "Youth vaping is a public health emergency and has been declared an epidemic by the U.S. surgeon general. Nicotine in e-cigarettes is harmful to developing brains and has dangerous long-term health consequences such as heart disease and cancer."
The ban includes menthol and mint flavored products and expires after 180 days (6 months) if not extended.
Whitmer announced Sept. 4 that Michigan would become the first state to move toward banning flavored e-cigarettes, accusing companies of using candy flavors and advertising that is deceptive and is made to appeal to kids. The governor criticized the legislation for not going far enough to protect Michigan’s kids from nicotine addiction, calling the marketing, packaging, and taste of e-cigarettes a "bait-and-switch" engineered to "create new nicotine addicts."
"For too long, companies have gotten our kids hooked on nicotine by marketing candy-flavored vaping products as safe," Whitmer said in a statement on Wednesday. "That ends today."
Michigan officials said national health data on e-cigarette use found youth use spiked in recent years, including 78% of high students and 48% of middle school students reporting using the products. In 2018, more than 3.6 million U.S. kids, including 1 in 5 high school students and 1 in 20 middle school students, were regular users, according to health officials.
Rules, penalties in Michigan
According to rules released by the state this week, Michigan retailers are not allowed to sell vaping products that have the taste or aroma other than that of tobacco. That means tastes or aromas of food or drink are not allowed, including but not limited to menthol, mint, wintergreen, fruit, chocolate, vanilla, honey, candy, cocoa, dessert, alcoholic beverages, herbs or spices.
Retailers also are not allowed to use any imagery "explicitly or implicitly representing a characterizing flavor to sell, offer for sale, give, or otherwise distribute a vape product." Delivery of these products to retailers also is banned under the rules.
Anyone who violates the rules will be charged with a misdemeanor. If they are found guilty they could face 6 months of imprisonment, a fine of no more than $200, or both.
Meanwhile, New York officially became the first state to institute a ban when regulators approved a set of emergency rules on Tuesday.