- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Michigan is set to become the first state to ban the sale of flavored e-cigarettes online and in retail stores — a public health emergency response to the rise in youth vaping.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer ordered the state health department Wednesday to issue emergency rules to ban sales and prohibit misleading marketing of vaping products, including using words like “safe,” “clean” and “healthy” in advertisements. She also ordered a ban on billboard ads for vaping products.

“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,” Ms. Whitmer said.

The state’s e-cigarette ban will be filed in coming weeks and take immediate effect. Retailers will have 30 days to comply. Tobacco-flavored products are exempt from the ban.

The ban will be in effect for six months, and can be renewed for another six months to allow state officials to develop permanent rules to ban e-cigarettes.

Advocacy groups such as the American Lung Association and the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids said Michigan has taken “necessary and appropriate emergency action” to combat the youth e-cigarette epidemic.

The groups called on other states and cities to prohibit the sale of all flavored e-cigarettes until the Food and Drug Administration exercises “strict regulatory oversight of e-cigarettes,” noting “more than 15,000 [flavors] on the market, from mango and mint to cotton candy and gummy bear — that hook [children] onto a highly addictive product.”

Michigan’s move this week comes amid increasing cases of vaping-related lung illnesses and a report of a second death of a person who suffered a severe respiratory illness following use of an e-cigarette.

Oregon Health Authority officials said Tuesday they had received reports that the person, who died in July, recently had used an e-cigarette or vaping device containing cannabis purchased from a marijuana dispensary. Officials said the person’s symptoms were similar to the more than 200 vaping-related lung illness cases reported nationwide.

Oregon’s announcement follows the first death tied to vaping-related lung illness reported in Illinois last month.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported late last week 215 cases of lung illness linked to vaping in 25 states, with other cases being investigated.

The CDC said it is unclear if these cases have a common cause or if they are different diseases with similar symptoms. Many patients admitted to using e-cigarette products containing THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, before being hospitalized.

Gregory Conley, president of the American Vaping Association, has said there is no evidence that ties counterfeit nicotine vaping products to lung illnesses, but several health departments are pointing to street-bought THC cartridges as a cause.

He called Michigan’s ban a “shameless attempt at back-door prohibition” that will close hundreds of small businesses and send thousands of ex-smokers back to combustible cigarettes.

“These businesses and their customers will not go down without a fight. We look forward to supporting the lawsuits that now appear necessary to protect the right of adults to access these harm reduction products,” Mr. Conley said. “Anyone who fears the prospect of an out-of-control government should be appalled by this attempt by the executive branch to unilaterally ban an adult product.”

Tony Abboud, executive director of the Vapor Technology Association, said Ms. Whitmer’s decision is not based on science or common sense.

“Science demonstrates that flavors are not the reason youth illegally use vapor products. In fact, science demonstrates that flavors play a critical role in helping adult smokers quit deadly cigarettes,” Mr. Abboud said, commenting on how Michigan’s move will help create a black market.

Michigan’s e-cigarette ban follows a similar move by San Francisco, which enacted a citywide ban in June.

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