DETROIT – Michigan officially banned the sale of flavored e-cigarettes on Wednesday amid a national health concern.
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.
"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.
Gov. Gretchen 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.