Critics rip Michigan vaping ban, citing harm to smokers and vape shops

flavored e-cigarettes

Lobbyists, residents and others packed a Lansing hearing room Thursday to discuss a plan by Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to ban flavored vaping products in the state. (Bridge photo by Robin Erb)


Michigan’s Chief Medical Executive, Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, told Michigan lawmakers on Thursday an “explosive” growth in vaping among teens justifies a ban on flavored vaping products to address what she calls a public health emergency. (Courtesy photo)

Nov. 13, 2019: Michigan transplant surgeon calls vaping damage to teen’s lungs 'evil'
Update: Michigan judge suspends Gov. Whitmer’s ban on flavored e-cigarettes
Update: At midnight tonight: Michigan’s ban on flavored vaping products with nicotine in full force
Update: It's official: Flavored e-cigarettes are now illegal in Michigan

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s proposed ban on flavored vaping products came under fire Thursday -‒ with a state lawmaker vowing to fight it, saying he worried about adults who use the products to quit smoking and about small businesses that rely on vaping sales. 

Rep. Beau LaFave, a Republican from Iron Mountain, said he has requested the Legislative Services Bureau to draw up bill language to stop the governor’s ban. It’s unclear what kind of teeth the bill would have since it would be subject to gubernatorial veto.

“We’re going to do everything we can to make sure you can let your daughter go to college and keep your vape shop open,” LaFave told a 55-year-old father of three and owner of an Upper Peninsula vape shop at a hearing of the House of Representatives Oversight Committee.

“These rules are going to kill small business owners, and it cannot (be allowed to take effect for) six minutes, let alone six months,” LaFave said.

Whitmer last week called for a ban flavored e-cigarettes and other vaping products with nicotine amid reports of hundreds of hospitalizations across the United States, including six in Michigan, from respiratory illnesses linked to vaping. Six people have died, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

You won’t just be banning flavors, you will be banning a life-saving industry from this state”
— Marc Slis, owner of the 906 Vapor shop in Hancock

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Whitmer’s action followed the declaration of a public health emergency by the state’s top doctor, Chief Medical Executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun. She told committee members Thursday the safety of e-cigarettes and other vaping products isn’t clear amid “explosive” growth in use among teens.

Michigan was the first state to propose such a ban. On Wednesday, the Trump administration moved to ban flavored vaping products nationwide as well. Earlier this year, Whitmer signed a bill that gained bipartisan support banning the sale of nicotine-containing vaping products to minors.

“Michigan is leading the effort nationwide to protect young people,” Khaldun told the committee Thursday.

The state’s declaration of a public health emergency allows the ban to take effect for six months once its language if approved by the Michigan Secretary of State. The state could renew the ban for another six months, but it would need legislative approval to extend it beyond that period.

The state’s core concern is that vaping provides youth a gateway to traditional cigarettes ‒ a worry underscored by a study released this week on flavored vaping by the American Heart Association, Khaldun told committee members Thursday. 

Nationally, 20.8 percent of high-school students and 4.8 percent of middle-school students in 2018 reported vaping within a month of being surveyed, a startling increase from 2017 when 11.7 percent of high school students and 3.3 percent of middle-school students reported vaping, according to a report  by the CDC.

State Rep. Beau LaFave said he’ll fight the governor’s recently announced plan to ban flavored vaping products. He said he’s worried about its impact on small businesses as well as on smokers who vape as a means to quit smoking traditional cigarettes. (Courtesy photo)

“We’re having non-fully reasonable people getting an addiction which they are then carrying on with them for the rest of their lives,” State Rep. David LaGrand, D-Grand Rapids, said, referencing adolescent users whose brains are still developing.

But critics see the ban from the other end of addiction ‒ adult smokers turn to vaping to step away from combustible tobacco.

Taking the products off the shelf altogether would remove a critical tool for adult smokers who use flavored vaping to quit cigarettes, said Rep. Michael Webber, R-Rochester Hills.

“Without some of these flavors, this will not be something that adults will want to do,” he said. “One of the comments is that [vaping] would just be gross.”

Guy Bentley, director of consumer freedom at Reason Foundation, a Washington, D.C.-based liberterian think tank, agreed in his testimony.

“These flavors are now more often than not the first choice for smokers looking to make the switch to vaping,” he said. 

He predicted a ban on flavoring vaping products will lead to unsafe, black-market alternatives: “It will curtail supply, but it won’t curtail demand and you can get even worse problems.”

Marc Slis, owner of 906 Vapor, a vaping shop in Houghton in the Upper Peninsula, said he drove 501 miles to attend the hearing. Slis told lawmakers he had been a smoker for 41 years, including 30 years in which he tried “everything” to quit, including hypnosis and smoking cessation products in other countries.

But then he walked into a Houghton vape shop one day, striking up a conversation with the young employee.

“A 19-year old kid with a high-school education did what nobody else could do, what government couldn't do, what public health with the medical community couldn't do in 30 years — get me to quit smoking,” he said. 

“It didn't cost the state or the federal government a dime. It was a simple explanation. And it worked in simple product.” 

He went on to purchase the vape shop, which has helped support his family, including his daughter at nearby Michigan Technological University.

But more than that, Slis said, his vape shop is a “matter of life and death” for smokers who can finally quit with the use of vaping devices.

“They are adults. They’re desperate to quit … and they all use flavors. The flavors are absolutely necessary, and they are the key to quitting smoking,” he said.

Anong his customers, he said, is an 87-year-old grandmother who used a Fruity Pebbles cereal-flavored vaping product to quit.

“You won’t just be banning flavors, you will be banning a life-saving industry from this state, I guarantee,” Slis said. “Everybody who’s currently trying to quit will be forced back to smoking and trying to quit again…. That’s unforgivable.” 

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Fri, 09/13/2019 - 8:54am

It is amazing and extremely irresponsible for the governor to take such a stance against a consumer product with zero evidence that the regulated product is a hazard. This is more about the left using their power to have it their. The truth is vaping has significantly reduced state cigarette tax revenue at the same time helped millions to stop smoking a known carcinogen.

Concerned Citizen
Fri, 09/13/2019 - 7:30pm

There is evidence - multiple cases of lung infections & deaths. The truth is it does not help anyone quit smoking - the addiction is to nicotine which is what they get from vaping, it is just another way to ingest it. Another issue I have with your claims is that its unregulated ...which means anything (toxins, poisons, carcinogens) can be in there - and is. Yes cigarettes are bad but at least it takes years or even decades to kill you - the people who are getting sick or dying have been doing it for months. I get that you like low taxes but how much do you think its going to cost us to take care of all the sick and dying?

Charles Carpenter
Fri, 09/13/2019 - 9:08am

Yeah, and outlawing prostitution would be tough on small business owners - the pimps.

Kathi Geukes
Fri, 09/13/2019 - 9:38am

As a person who quit smoking after 37 years, the Repub who wants to fight Gov. Whitmer on her ban of vaping materials is so wrong on his suggestion that vaping is needed to help people quit is laughable, and downright dangerous!! Has he not heard of the kids and one 50 year old who died because of vaping? If people need help to quit....go see your doctor....he'll help along with a lot of sheer will power that it takes to quit.....I did it and I smoked for 37 years...I now have COPD and in Winter I can't step outside because my lungs can't handle the cold. But I'm glad I quit....not only because I'm saving tons of money I'm banking but because of the fact that I don't have to worry about having enough smokes to get me through the next day!! I would walk through a blizzard for a pack to make sure I didn't start going through's not easy but believe'll be the best thing you've ever done for yourself!!!! Quit….today!!!!!

Kathi Geukes
Fri, 09/13/2019 - 9:41am

Oh...and as far as hurting business owners?? Who would want to be in a business that kills people quicker than cigarettes???

Dave - Royal Oak
Fri, 09/13/2019 - 10:20am

Typical liberal: It is a health "crisis". So, we have to take drastic action. For them it is always a "crisis". Well, this is not a crisis. My understanding is children are not allowed by law to purchase this stuff. So, the liberal argument is: For the safety of our children, we are taking away a legal product from EVERYONE, a product that children are not allowed to buy anyway. It makes no sense.

Not Dave
Fri, 09/13/2019 - 12:12pm

Hey, how do you feel about president Trump's proposal to do this at the federal level? Or is he a typical liberal as well

Kathi Geukes
Sun, 09/15/2019 - 8:30am

So my caring about anyone dying from something that is deadly when you consume it....meaning smoke a “typical liberal crisis”? So be it...rethug or “liberal” ...which I am by the just means that I learned by doing....or did you just skip reading that portion of my comment? Just trying to make sure that people aren’t sucked into the commercial hype about something that could wind up killing them. The death total is up to 6 I right? And how long has vaping been a “thing” ? A few years? And how many more people need to die before the people “in charge” decide it’s a threat to human life? Or doesn’t that matter to you? I should stop now because I know what a short attention span you have! Peace out!!!!!

Steve G
Fri, 09/13/2019 - 11:58am

The arguments FOR vaping are 100% just for the self-interest of the owners of the vape shops that profit off of it. They are not saving lives, they are just trying to protect their own bank accounts. The victims of the vaping are the teens that don't know any better and are being hurt by smoking with adolescent brains. Adults can and should find a way to stop smoking if they want to, and if they have spent their whole life spending money on smoking, they can find a way to obtain flavored vape products in somewhere other than our state.

Sun, 09/15/2019 - 8:32am

In this article, one sees mention of 6 deaths "due to respiratory illnesses linked to vaping," but it does not elaborate on the reasons why. A cursory investigation through other news sources (e.g. the Washington Post) reveals that most of the vaping-related illnesses that we have seen this summer were caused by using illicit THC cartridges that were spiked with vitamin E acetate, and not by nicotine vapes. This is a huge part of this story that many people are still not understanding.

Sun, 09/15/2019 - 2:21pm

It is sadly hilarious to see these products defended as healthy stop-smoking aids (a "life-saving industry," says the vape shop owner in Hancock). It's the same old story: If I can make a buck from it, it doesn't matter how many people are dropping dead or contracting debilitating diseases.