Authorities In The American Midwest Make Efforts To Reduce Vaping

As e-cigarettes continue to surge in popularity among American teenagers, authorities in the Midwest are taking the initiative to protect young people from a potential source of health problems and nicotine addiction. In Michigan and Wisconsin, health officials have issued warnings about teenage vaping, and policymakers are listening.

Michigan Bans Flavored E-Cigarettes

This week, Michigan made history by becoming the first state to ban the sale of flavored e-cigarettes. On September 3, Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced in an interview that she would direct the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) to enforce the ban, which will take effect once the Department outlines specific regulations. The ban will then remain in force for six months and be subject to renewal. Michigan’s new policy against selling flavored e-cigarettes will prohibit retail stores from selling them anywhere in the State and will also prohibit online merchants from selling them to Michigan residents.

Many e-cigarettes emit vapors with sweet flavors like “bubble gum” or “strawberry watermelon.” In response to growing pressure to prevent underage vaping, Juul and other e-cigarette companies have already begun to stop selling sweet-flavored vaping products. Under the Michigan ban, the sale of sweet, minty, and menthol flavors will all be outlawed. Governor Whitmer also directed MDHHS to continue to enforce the State’s policy against e-cigarette companies advertising their products as “safe” or “clear,” since young people sometimes start vaping because they believe it is a healthy alternative to smoking cigarettes or marijuana.

Political Background For The New Policy

The Governor presented her decision as a legal measure for preventing Michigan’s teenagers from using e-cigarettes after MDHHS declared adolescent vaping a public health emergency. The health effects of e-cigarettes are still unknown, but some experts believe that vaping may cause a variety of health problems, including seizures and respiratory failure, and that they pose risks for addiction. Most e-cigarettes contain nicotine and some of the toxic, carcinogenic chemicals in regular cigarettes. Last year, the FDA determined that over 3.5 million high school and middle school students smoke e-cigarettes, and numerous surveys indicate that flavored e-cigarettes appeal most powerfully to the youngest demographics.

The new policy is not universally popular. Supporters of e-cigarettes have denounced it as unfair since, under the new rules, adults in Michigan will no longer be able to buy flavored vaping products. Greg Conley, president of the American Vaping Association, called Whitmer’s policy a “shameless attempt at backdoor prohibition” that will “close down several hundred Michigan small businesses and could send tens of thousands of ex-smokers back to deadly combustible cigarettes.” His organization promised to file a lawsuit to stop the policy. Meanwhile, Governor Whitmer has vowed to veto any attempt by the state legislature to overturn the ban.

Milwaukee Tells Its Residents To Stop Vaping

In neighboring Wisconsin, the city of Milwaukee recently attacked the e-cigarette industry with a public heath warning. On August 28, the Milwaukee Health Department announced that several Milwaukee residents have recently required emergency medical care for serious respiratory ailments after using e-cigarettes or vaping marijuana. For this reason, the Milwaukee Health Department warned everyone in the city to stop vaping immediately.

The City of Milwaukee Health Department (MHD) is urging residents to stop using any vape and/or e-cigarette devices immediately. As of August 28th, 16 individuals have been hospitalized with severe chemical pneumonitis, or chemical pneumonia (inflammation of the lungs due to aspiration or inhalation of irritants). These individuals reported using vape products or dabbing (vaping marijuana oils, extracts, or concentrates) in the weeks and months prior to hospitalization. However, at this time, the specifics of the products are unknown. Residents are again strongly encouraged to not utilize any THC products containing e-liquid.

- Milwaukee Health Department, Health Alert, August 28, 2019

The warning lacks any force of law. Nevertheless, the Milwaukee Health Department’s statement demonstrates that health authorities in America are growing increasingly concerned about the potential dangers of e-cigarettes for both adults and children. Since the sales ban in Michigan followed a warning from health authorities in that state, this warning could compel the State of Wisconsin to enact similar laws against e-cigarettes in the future.

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Nathan Yerby

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  • Nathan Yerby is a writer and researcher. He is a graduate of the University of Central Florida.

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