MICHIGAN, USA — Allen Crumpton smoked his first cigarette at age 16, he didn't put them down for the next 30 years. But, it wasn't for a lack of trying.
"I wanted to stop and I tried everything I could — the patches, the gum," Crumpton said from his front porch with his vape in hand.
"It just didn't work for me."
His health began to suffer for it. Simple tasks like walking up a couple of stairs sent him into a coughing fit.
“It deteriorated my life to the point where there were a lot of things that I just could not do," Crumpton said.
About two years ago, he tried vaping.
"It instantly worked, I was off cigarettes in two days."
Crumpton said he started breathing easier and picked up healthier habits as a result. He now bikes 40 miles a day and has dropped about 50 pounds.
“I know vaping is not good for you, don’t get me wrong," Crumpton said. "But, it’s much better than cigarettes."
Kenneth Warner, professor emeritus and dean emeritus of the University of Michigan's School of Public Health, echoes that idea.
"For adult smokers, there is literally nothing they can do that will improve their health more than quitting smoking," Warner said by phone Thursday. "If you can't quit by other means, then vaping may be a very effective way to do it."
Warner said there's been a large group of adults making the switch from cigarettes to vaping, and when they do — it's typically the sweeter flavors they prefer.
"Having a variety of flavors available, including fruit flavors, is important to them - it's part of what makes vaping attractive," Warner said.
Under Governor Gretchen Whitmer's newly announced ban, which is not yet in effect, every flavor besides tobacco vape products would be prohibited both in stores and online.
"I think we are risking the loss of many lives with a policy like this," Warner said. "While at the same time, it will almost certainly help to reduce the problem with kids starting to vape."
The goal of Whitmer's ban is to protect children, who have picked up vaping at alarming rates in the past few years. The long term impacts of vaping are not entirely clear yet, as most vape products have only been on the market for the last 10 years. There have recently been hundreds of cases of respiratory illnesses country-wide tied to vaping, and those cases have been linked to the vaping of both nicotine and THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. Whitmer's plan for a ban on flavored vape products came after her Chief Medical Executive, Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, found that youth vaping constituted a public health emergency in the state.
“As governor, my number one priority is keeping our kids safe,” Whitmer wrote in a press release. “And 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."
Earlier this summer, Whitmer signed into law two bills that made it illegal to sell non-traditional nicotine products to minors. At the time, she said the laws did not go far enough to protect kids from the youthful marketing, packaging and flavors used by vape companies.
Crumpton said he can understand the issue with the marketing appearing to target youths, but he doesn't want to pay for that.
"It's not just kids that use these, I am 53 years old and the name of the juice I use is 'Papa Smurf'," Crumpton said. "Make them change the names, don't ban it completely."
As far as the tobacco flavored vape juice goes, Crumpton said he'd rather have a cigarette, and while he'd like to give up nicotine completely — he's not ready.
"At this point, I am not over the addiction to nicotine, so I'd go right back to smoking and I'd be right back to where I was," he said.
The rules for the ban will be filed in the next few weeks, and from there, businesses will have 30 days to comply.
Smoking cessation programs in West Michigan:
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