- Associated Press - Sunday, June 22, 2014

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Gov. Rick Snyder is signaling that he may veto legislation to prevent minors from buying electronic cigarettes because he does not think it would go far enough and regulate the vaporizers like traditional tobacco products.

“I’ve had issues with that bill,” he said last week, adding that it will get “special attention” and extra review. “Is it a tobacco product or not?”

The Republican-led Legislature this month approved three e-cigarette measures, which are among 140 bills that legislators sent to the governor in the last weeks before breaking for much of the summer. The legislation would prohibit the sale and use of e-cigarettes and other nicotine-delivery devices by those under age 18 while also stating they are not tobacco products regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Tobacco companies and many legislators say it is better to immediately stop sales to minors while letting the FDA study and sort out regulatory issues. In April, the FDA proposed regulating e-cigarettes, banning sales to anyone under 18, adding warning labels and requiring agency approval for new products.

State law could be amended later if the FDA approves regulations, according to proponents. All but 14 of 148 legislators voted for the bills. Another bill that would define e-cigarettes and other electronic smoking devices as tobacco products is sitting in a House committee.

“This approach in Michigan is not unique. Thirty-eight states have passed laws prohibiting sales to minors,” said David Sutton, a spokesman for Atria, a Virginia-based owner of tobacco and e-cigarette companies. “From an age restriction perspective, we think it’s important for the governor to go ahead and sign these bills.”

But the state Department of Community Health - a part of Snyder’s administration - and health advocates say e-cigarettes should be treated like traditional tobacco, so they could be banned in workplaces or restaurants or be subject to other tobacco-control laws.

“We would like to see e-cigarettes regulated as tobacco products because they’re addictive. You don’t want another whole generation of people addicted to nicotine. That’s the last thing we need from a community health standpoint,” said Dr. Fred Van Alstine, president of the Michigan Academy of Family Physicians.

DCH Director James Haveman said the agency opposes the bills as passed by the Legislature.

“I don’t think the issue that it’s more of a tobacco product got the full hearing that it should have. Maybe we’ve got to go back and review this and continue the dialogue,” he said. “Maybe it has to have some more done on it.”

Electronic cigarettes are becoming a big business. The industry started on the Internet and at shopping-mall kiosks and has rocketed from thousands of users in 2006 to several million worldwide, with a choice of more than 200 brands.

Sales are estimated to have reached nearly $2 billion in 2013.

Some experts think the devices, which heat a nicotine solution to produce an odorless vapor without the smoke and tar of burning tobacco, can help smokers quit. Others wonder whether e-cigarettes keep smokers addicted or hook new users and encourage them to move on to tobacco.


Follow David Eggert at https://twitter.com/DavidEggert00

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