Michigan has become the first state in the country to ban flavored e-cigarettes on Wednesday, according to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's office.
The ban is for retail of vaping products that use sweet and fruity flavors as well as mint and menthol ones. This ban does not include tobacco-flavored e-cigarettes.
- The Michigan governor has used her executive power to put in place a six-month ban on flavored e-cigarettes.
- The ban is in effect immediately and can be extended another six months at the end of these first six months.
- Gov. Whitmer wants state legislators to write the ban into law. She wants a warning for these products from the federal government such as the one for cigarettes, but until that happens she wants this ban in place for Michigan.
The ban covers both retail and online sales and it will go into effect on Wednesday. It will last for six months and after those six months it can be renewed for another six months, according to the governor's office.
Whitmer told the Washington Post that Michigan's health department found youth vaping "constituted a public health emergency." She later went on MSNBC to talk about the ban.
"My chief medical officer this week said we have a public health crisis, it's time to take action. So I'm using my executive authority as governor to order the Department of Health and Human Services to ban the flavored e-cigarettes, to restrict advertising and the misleading advertising that they're engaged in, that it's 'healthy' or that it's 'good for you,'" Whitmer said Wednesday morning on MSNBC.
Whitmer said she wants the vaping products to be treated like cigarettes and come with a Surgeon General warning, but she will not wait for the federal government to act.
"It's on the states to take action, and as governor I am going to do it unilaterally until I can get the legislature to adopt it and write it into law," the governor said.
Whitmer said she has teenagers at home and has been talking to them about how prevalent vaping is in their schools.
"They are marketing bubble gum flavor, fruit-loops flavored, they've got one that looks like Mott's apple sauce, implying that it's a healthy alternative to, I suppose, smoking," said Whitmer. "The fact of the matter is, every time our kids inhale this they are putting nicotine into their system, which we know is an incredibly addictive drug, but in combination with the other chemicals that they use in these products, and the metal fragments, we're seeing kids showing up with these severe respiratory illnesses that we need to address."
The Michigan Department of Health of Human Services will be the enforcement arm, Whitmer said.
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel called it a bold move by the governor.
"With a more than 1.5 million increase in the number of students using vaping products in just one year, the governor's emergency actions today are exactly the bold measures we must take to protect Michigan's children from the dangerous effects of vaping," Nessel said in a news release. "I commend the governor's decision and pledge my department's continued and shared commitment to keeping these products out of the hands of our kids."
On June 4, Whitmer signed Senate Bills 106 and 155, which clarify that it is illegal to sell e-cigarettes and other non-traditional nicotine products to minors. In her signing message to the Legislature, Whitmer 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.”
"As governor, my number one priority is keeping our kids safe,” Whitmer said in a news release Wednesday. "And 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. That ends today. Our kids deserve leaders who are going to fight to protect them. These bold steps will finally put an end to these irresponsible and deceptive practices and protect Michiganders’ public health."
According to the governor's office, from 2017 to 2018 e-cigarette use spiked 78% among high school students and 48% among middle school students. 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.
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Last week, Michigan health officials said they were investigating six cases of breathing illnesses that may be linked to e-cigarettes or other vaping products.
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services said each of the cases was diagnosed in the last 60 days and most of the individuals have been hospitalized for severe respiratory illness. The patients range in age from 19 to 39. It says that as of Aug. 23, more than 200 possible cases of severe respiratory disease associated with e-cigarette use have been reported in 23 states. Illinois last week reported one death.
The Michigan agency says e-cigarette and/or vaping users should immediately seek medical attention if they develop symptoms such as shortness of breath, chest pain, cough, fever and/or nausea and vomiting.
In August, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it was aware of 153 possible cases of severe lung disease in 16 states that could be caused by vaping.
The cases -- reported from June 28 to August 20, 2019 -- popped up in California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Michigan, North Carolina, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah and Wisconsin. They have primarily affected adolescents and young adults.
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The FDA began to crack down on illegally marketed tobacco products in August. It issued warning letters to four companies for allegedly selling e-liquids and hookah tobacco without legal authorization.
"The products, according to the FDA, lack the necessary marketing authorization to be sold in the United States," reads a CNN report. "No e-cigarette currently has that approval, but many are allowed to stay on the market temporarily because they were introduced before the FDA assumed authority over vapes in August 2016."