Whitmer was right to go after flavored e-cigs

I support Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s tough stance this week toward flavored electronic cigarettes.

On Wednesday, Michigan became the first state in the nation to ban flavored electronic cigarettes. Whitmer said the sweet-smelling and -sounding flavors and deceptive advertising methods were thin disguises to “hook children on nicotine.”

Within minutes after making her position public, representatives of the vaping industry alleged Whitmer was misguided and all but promised the ban would be challenged in the courts.

“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,” said Gregory Conley, president of the American Vaping Association.

So be it.

Whitmer understood the fallout she would take by the position, but it is the correct position to take.

“This is a health crisis that we’re confronting, and it would never be permitted if it was cigarettes,” Whitmer said. “We’re letting these companies target our kids, appeal to our kids, and deceive our children.”

State Attorney General Dana Nessel, whose office would have to defend Whitmer’s action in any lawsuits, was one of the first to support the governor.

“With a more than 1.5 million increase in the number of students using vaping products in just one year, the governor’s emergency actions today are exactly the bold measures we must take to protect Michigan’s children from the dangerous effects of vaping,” Nessel said.

“I commend the governor’s decision and pledge my department’s continued and shared commitment to keeping these products out of the hands of our kids.”

Earlier this week, in Oregon, officials announced the death of a person who was vaping, which is at least the second in the country. In Michigan, officials are investigating six cases of pulmonary disease they believe was caused by vaping.

Just like battles decades ago over tobacco smoke, there are a variety of opinions regarding vaping.

Julie Gunlock, of the Independent Women’s Forum in Washington, called Whitmer’s decision “unfortunate.”

“It’s unfortunate for the people of Michigan that Gov. Whitmer has chosen to ban the very product that has helped so many quit the far more harmful habit of smoking traditional cigarettes. This government meddling will only lead to a thriving black market for flavored e-cigarette liquid at the very time when the FDA is investigating injuries likely caused by the illegal trade of these products.”

However, Karen Holcomb-Merrill, of the Michigan League for Public Policy, applauded the governor’s actions.

“With sweet and enticing flavors, questionable health claims, and intentional marketing and advertisements targeting our kids, vaping is picking up right where traditional tobacco products left off, and elected officials, public health advisors, and child advocates are having to fight the same battles all over again,” Holcomb-Merrill said. “And what’s at stake — kids’ lives and healthy futures — is still the same, too. As the Michigan Kids Count organization, the League fights for positive policy changes to help Michigan’s youth, but we also stand up against nefarious and exploitative policies — and in this case, industries — that are intentionally going after our kids.”

For me, sweet flavors for electronic cigarettes is just another gimmick to hook teens and children on a dangerous new addiction.

I support the governor for taking an unpopular stand by saying “not in Michigan.”

Bill Speer can be reached at 989-354-3111, ext. 311, or bspeer@thealpenanews.com. Follow him on Twitter @billspeer13.