Earlier this month, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer authorized the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services to file a regulation preventing the online and retail sale of flavored e-cigarettes, making Michigan the first state to do so.
This decision came after the MDHHS and Whitmer claimed that youth vaping constitutes a public health emergency in Michigan. This law also has support from President Trump, who may be opting to ban the sale of such products nationwide.
Although this ban is well-intentioned and “prioritizes kids’ safety,” according to Whitmer and other officials, I find it drastic and meddlesome.
Vaping has become a “safer” alternative for smokers trying to curb their habit, as consumers can opt for lower nicotine levels in such products. It has also sadly become a fad for teenagers and young adults who are supposedly unaware of the adverse health effects vaping entails.
I would like to counter that notion. Teenagers and young adults know what they’re getting themselves into when they take a hit, regardless of whether it’s fruit or tobacco-flavored. If they want to do things only adults are authorized to do, they should face the consequences to their decisions like adults.
This over-regulation not only jeopardizes legal adult participation in the market and small businesses which sell these products but also presents additional safety hazards for those trying to get their hands on the product illegally.
An outright ban on the substance opens up a hole in the market which has the potential to be filled by dangerous products, creating an unchecked black market which poses more health risks than those that already exist.
If we have a vulnerable population of addicts, they will find a way to get what they need or return to the product vaping was intended to steer them away from: cigarettes. I prefer they rely on professionally curated products over dangerous, unregulated ones.
Once the ban goes into effect, businesses will have a 30-day buffer period to sell the products they already have in stock. When the six-month ban expires, Whitmer can authorize an additional six-month ban. After that, the legislature will have to go through the proper channels to make the ban permanent.
The push for better, more conscientious advertising of e-cigarettes and vaping products is the only part of the ban I approve. Misleading the public into believing these products are “safe” or “clean” is wrong, and these companies should be checked. But I’m not quite sure an outright ban is the proper way to do so.
The ban is a reactive and paternalistic overstep that prevents legal adults from buying legal products. Going after misleading advertisers would be a better use of resources than punishing consumers. Though this ban had good intentions, it is short-sighted and over-reaching, and there are frankly more important issues that the state government should focus on.