Michigan’s Democrat Gov. Gretchen Whitmer invoked her executive authority Wednesday to make her state the first to ban sales of flavored e-cigarette products in an effort to reduce teen vaping.
The temporary six-month ban prohibits both online and in-store sales of all flavored e-cigarette cartridges except tobacco and will go into effect in the coming weeks, giving businesses 30 days to comply with the order. Whitmer argued the ban is necessary to combat a “crisis” of teen vaping, and told MSNBC she hopes the legislature will make it law.
“As governor, I’m going to do it unilaterally until I can get the legislature to adopt a statute and write it into law,” Whitmer said.
“Youth use of e-cigarettes has become a public health crisis,” Whitmer said in a statement announcing the measure, noting that the rise in teenage use of the products is “fueled by the availability of flavors akin to Fruit Loops, Fanta, and Nilla wafers.”
The order also restricts electronic cigarette makers’ advertising in the state, prohibiting companies from promoting their products as “harmless.”
Teenage vaping is indeed on an upward trajectory, with federal and local officials cracking down on electronic cigarette makers for advertising that makes their products appeal to minors. San Francisco, California became the first city in the United States to ban the sale of flavored e-cigarette products, followed by Boulder, Colorado last week.
The FDA has also been aggressive in targeting electronic cigarette makers, declaring it an “epidemic” and conducting surprise raids on manufacturers last year.
Advocates of the flavored products argue, however, that they are critical to helping people addicted to smoking cigarettes quit. Former FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb, who led federal efforts against e-cigarette makers before leaving the agency for a think tank this year, has since called for a more cautious approach on regulating the products.
Writing in the Wall Street Journal in June, Gottlieb acknowledged that e-cigarettes were less harmful to consumers than traditional cigarettes and argued for the FDA to pursue a pathway to keep the products on the market for smokers trying to quit while keeping them out of the hands of children and teens.
As Julie Gunlock at the Independent Women’s Forum notes, however, Gottlieb came down hard on e-cigarette makers and downplayed their benefits while playing up fears of teenage vaping.
Gunlock also criticized Gottlieb’s declaration of a “teen epidemic” of vaping while at the FDA, pointing out that the studies used to determine teen vaping to be an epidemic include surveys that exaggerate the number of teens actually using the products, defining “current e-cigarette use” as having vaped once over a 30-day period.