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Michigan becomes the first state in U.S. to ban flavored vaping products

Michigan will become the first state in the nation to ban flavored vaping products under emergency rules announced Wednesday by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. It will be issued by the state Department of Health and Human Services, which has found youth vaping to be a public health emergency.

The six-month ban will go into effect immediately and will ban sales of sweet, fruity and minty e-cigarettes in retail or online stores, as first reported by the Washington Post. Tobacco-flavored e-cigarette products won’t be banned. 

The ban can be extended up to a year, the Post reported. Over that time, state officials will work to form permanent regulations to ban flavored vaping products. Officials told the Post that the Republican-majority Michigan Legislature could block the rules but that the governor would veto any attempt to do so. 

“Right now, 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,” Whitmer, a Democrat, said in a statement Wednesday. 

The state will also prohibit using words like “clean,” “safe” and “healthy” in marketing vaping products, which “perpetuate beliefs that these products are harmless,” according to Whitmer’s statement. The Michigan Department of Transportation will also be required to enforce an existing law prohibiting vaping billboard ads. 

Businesses will have 30 days to comply with the order, Whitmer told the Post.

DHHS officials have concluded that Michigan “faces a vaping crisis among youth” and recommended officials create emergency rules to address the crisis, according to an emergency finding issued in August. 

Vaping products have been the most common tobacco products among American youth since 2014, the emergency declaration said. From 2017 to 2018, use went up nearly 80 percent among high school students and nearly 50 percent among middle schoolers. It cited recent studies showing vaping products contain metal and chemicals that have unknown long-term health effects and said that young people who vape are more likely to become cigarette smokers.

“This is a public health crisis. These products can contain harmful chemicals that put our kids’ health at risk,” said Joneigh Khaldun, Michigan chief medical executive and DHHS chief deputy director for health. 

The federal Food and Drug Administration has found leading e-cigarette brands contain cancer-causing chemicals, including ingredients used in antifreeze, DHHS has said

DHHS announced last week that it was investigating six local cases of lung infections believed to be associated with vaping. Last month, an Illinois resident became the first person to die of a vaping-related respiratory illness. 

Other national and Michigan health organizations said they supported the ban, including the Michigan Health and Hospital Association, the Michigan Osteopathic Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Lung Association and the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network. 

The American Vaping Association called the ban a “shameless attempt at backdoor prohibition.” The organization contends it would cause hundreds of small businesses in Michigan to shut down and would push ex-smokers to return to traditional cigarettes.

“We look forward to supporting the lawsuits that now appear necessary to protect the right of adults to access these harm reduction products,” an association spokesperson told the Associated Press.  

Nancy Brown, CEO of the American Heart Association, said in a statement that the ban constitutes “bold and appropriate action.”

“In the absence of robust regulation by the Food and Drug Administration, we know shockingly little about the health impact of e-cigarettes being widely marketed to youth and adults,” Brown said, adding that the action will protect youth from the products’ unknown health risks. “We urge the FDA to move urgently to protect public health and exercise strict oversight over all e-cigarette products.”

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel also lauded the ban Wednesday, saying she pledges the department’s “continued and shared commitment to keeping these products out of the hands of our kids.”

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