Democratic governor says she wants to stop companies that are using candy flavors to ‘hook children on nicotine’
Michigan’s governor, Gretchen Whitmer, said Michigan will be the first to ban flavored vaping products, including for adults. Photograph: Frank Franklin II/AP
Michigan will become the first state to ban flavored e-cigarettes, joining liberal US cities in an effort to curb teen vaping. The move comes on the heels of reports of a severe, rare and unexplained respiratory illness affecting heavy vape users.
Michigan’s Democratic governor Gretchen Whitmer announced the state health department would immediately ban retail and online sales of flavored e-cigarettes through an emergency rule-making process. The move will prohibit the sale, and the misleading marketing, of flavored nicotine vaping products.
Although there is no long-term evidence about the health effects of vaping, experts widely regard the devices as less harmful than smoking. However, more than 200 cases of severe, unexplained lung illness among heavy vape users has alarmed many doctors.
Recent US government surveys found a more than 900% increase in vaping among high school students between 2011 and 2015, prompting an advisory from the US surgeon general on their popularity. Seven in 10 teens have been exposed to e-cigarette advertisements, studies have found.
The American Vaping Association, a lobbying group for the e-cigarette industry, called Whitmer’s call for new rules a “backdoor prohibition”. Without citing specific evidence, the group said the ban would hurt thousands of businesses and force adults to go back to smoking.
Researchers and anti-tobacco advocates in the US have taken a more hardline stance against e-cigarettes compared to the UK and continental Europe.
Some US cities have already moved to ban flavored e-cigarettes. New York is considering bills to ban flavored e-cigarettes and tobacco, such as menthol. In June, San Francisco went a step further, and became the first US city to ban e-cigarettes outright.
However, San Francisco’s ban has split public health experts. Many researchers have argued e-cigarettes help many low-income smokers move to a less harmful type of smoking. Others say an epidemic of teen vaping demands bans or restrictions, even without complete scientific conclusions on the devices’ health effects.