Michigan Governor Bans E-Cigarettes - A Really Bad Idea | Citizens Against Government Waste
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Michigan Governor Bans E-Cigarettes - A Really Bad Idea

The WasteWatcher is the staff blog of Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) and the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW). For questions, contact blog@cagw.org.


Yesterday, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer (D) banned flavored e-cigarettes, making it the first state in the nation to do so.  The governor’s actions follow closely the actions of San Francisco where city officials banned the sale of Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS), or e-cigarettes, that have not received approval by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).  Both the governor and San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors’ stated reasons to implement these bans were to stop youth vaping.  The Michigan ban covers retail and on-line sales and is due to go into effect within 30 days.  San Francisco’s law will go into effect in January 2020.

The most recent spate of respiratory illnesses, including two deaths, while utilizing vaping products has certainly heightened anxiety and has spurred on much of the recent anti-vaping rhetoric.  According to news reports this afternoon, it appears the culprit may be very high levels of vitamin E acetate in nearly all the samples that contained cannabis, or marijuana.  Vitamin E was not found in the nicotine products that were tested.  Rumor is the FDA will make an announcement tomorrow on these findings.

While the concern over youth vaping is understandable, banning ENDS is not the solution to this problem.  There has never been a social vice, such as underage drinking or smoking cigarettes, in which a resourceful and determined youth cannot find a way to gain access to the product.  The best approach to stopping youth vaping is through active parental engagement, educating their children that utilizing such products can be detrimental to their health, especially at a young age.

One may also wonder if vaping is at epidemic proportions, as being claimed by the federal government.  According to an R Street August 2019 policy paper, “Tobacco Harm Reduction: Evidence Update,” government data shows that 20.8 percent of high school students had used an e-cigarette during the past 30 days.  That is a wide window as it includes puffing an e-cigarette once or twice in a month, up to habitual use.  A closer look shows that with respect to habitual use, 5.7 percent of high school students use e-cigarettes 20 or more days a month.

While parents must be vigilant about their children following this latest fad, a ban on e-cigarettes harms people who use these products to wean themselves off from smoking cigarettes, which are known to be harmful and deadly.  Adults also like the sweet, fruity, and minty flavors that help them move from smoking to vaping.  Unfortunately for them, it appears only tobacco flavored e-cigarettes will remain available in Michigan.  The ban covers retail and online sales and will be in effect, once rules are promulgated, for six months.  According to the governor, the state legislature may try to block the rules but doing so would face her veto.

Expect vapers to be up in arms over this issue and fight this ban with lawsuits and supporting legislation to remove the ban.  Many view vaping as a life-safer, a process that has helped them move away from smoking tobacco.  Owners of vaping shops will not sit idly by as they lose their income and businesses.

One can also expect the development of a black market by crafty and criminal entrepreneurs who are willing to cross state lines to bring back flavored vaping products to sell to willing customers in the state, and potentially more dangerous counterfeit vaping products sold on the streets.

The federal government and state governments should look at England’s health agency, Public Health England (PHE), which has recognized that e-cigarettes and heat-not-burn technology are valuable tools to help adult smokers quit smoking and save lives.  For example, a February 14, 2019 study, funded by the British National Institute for Health Research and published in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that e-cigarettes were twice as effective as nicotine patches or gum to help cigarette smokers quit their deadly habit.

In fact, England encouraged its citizens to switch to vaping with its July 2017 tobacco control plan, entitled “Towards a Smokefree Generation.”  Not only do health officials want to permit use of e-cigarettes in public places, there is growing evidence that ENDS technologies are significantly less harmful to health than combustible cigarettes.

Health officials in England have found that e-cigarettes are not a gateway to cigarettes.  For example, Professor Linda Bauld, Professor of Health Policy at the University of Stirling and Chair in Behavioral Research for Cancer Prevention in the United Kingdom said, “Concern has been expressed that e-cigarette use will lead young people into smoking.  But in the UK, research clearly shows that regular use of e-cigarettes among young people who have never smoked remains negligible, less than 1%, and youth smoking continues to decline at an encouraging rate.”  While she admits health officials need to continue to monitor trends, the current data suggests e-cigarettes are not encouraging regular smoking in youth.

Clearly England has found answers to help people quit deadly cigarette smoking and prevent youth from picking up bad habits.  U.S. politicians should query, not ignore, what is going on “across the pond.”

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