LANSING, Mich. — Michigan will be the first state in the nation to place a ban on flavored nicotine vaping products. 

The move, announced Wednesday by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, will ban online and retail sales of sweet, fruity, minty and menthol-flavored products. The governor's office said in a press release that it's all in effort to protect the children of Michigan from the harmful effects of vaping. The ban comes after Whitmer's Chief Medical Executive, Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, found that youth vaping constitutes a public health emergency in the state. 

Whitmer ordered the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services to issue emergency rules, which will be filed in the next few weeks. Once the rules are filed, businesses will have 30 days to comply. The ban will last for six months at which point it can then be renewed. 

Included in the ban is any misleading marketing of vaping products, like the use of terms like “clean,” “safe,” and “healthy”, which Whitmer says perpetuates beliefs that these products are harmless. The governor also ordered the Michigan Department of Transportation to enforce an existing statute to prohibit the advertising of vapor products on billboards.

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“As governor, my number one priority is keeping our kids safe,” said Governor Whitmer. “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. Our kids deserve leaders who are going to fight to protect them. These bold steps will finally put an end to these irresponsible and deceptive practices and protect Michiganders’ public health.”

On June 4, Governor Whitmer signed Senate Bills 106 and 155, which made it illegal to sell e-cigarettes and another non-traditional nicotine products to minors. 

VAPE ADVOCATES RESPOND

Gregory Conley, president of the American Vaping Association, issued a statement Wednesday morning calling Whitmer's ban illegal.  

Conley's statement reads in part:

“This shameless attempt at backdoor prohibition will close down several hundred Michigan small businesses and could send tens of thousands of ex-smokers back to deadly combustible cigarettes. These businesses and their customers will not go down without a fight. We look forward to supporting the lawsuits that now appear necessary to protect the right of adults to access these harm reduction products."

Joost Vapor, Michigan's largest independent vape retailer, issued the following statement regarding the ban:

"We commend the Governor’s focus of combating the underage vaping issue. Instead of initiating emergency powers that are bound to have drastic effects to many employees statewide and thousands of consumers, it would be more effective to work in a collaborative effort with our elected officials and industry leaders to combat the actual causes and offenders leading to underage nicotine use. At Joost Vapor, we have always chosen to have a very proactive and pro-regulation attitude regarding alternative nicotine products. We understand that the use of our products by underage individuals is unacceptable and have gone to great lengths to combat this. Joost Vapor has made reliable and effective policies and has already collaborated with our elected officials to help combat this issue. We offer to do so with the Governor to come up with common-sense, effective regulation that does not punish the consumers and employees of an entire industry."

West Side Smoke Shop in Grand Rapids said that vape products account for roughly half of their sales. Store manager Ivy Stiegemeier said most customers prefer to buy the fruity and candy flavored products, she said very few people purchase the tobacco flavor. 

HEALTH PROFESSIONALS PRAISE THE BAN 

"It's really innovative for Michigan and really exciting to be taking that lead and having that commitment to protect our youth," said Libby Stern, a tobacco cessation specialist with Spectrum Health. 

Stern said younger generations had been smoking cigarettes at an increasingly lower rate in recent years.

“But, what we've seen happen is that kids are starting to use the newer electronic products, becoming addicted to those" Stern said. "Then turning to smoking combustible cigarettes and cigars.”

Stern believes a ban on the candy and fruity flavors could lead to kids being less attracted to the popular trend. 

"That’s what has attracted them," Stern said. “When people start using as a youth, it can permanently impact their brain and predispose them to a lifetime of addiction, which is very dangerous."

Health groups including the American Heart Association, American Lung Association and Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and Truth Initiative all applauded Whitmer's ban, as well. 

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