Michigan Declares Public Health Emergency, Bans Flavored E-Cigarette Products

On Wednesday, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer declared a statewide public health emergency, ordering the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services to issue emergency rules to ban the sale of flavored nicotine vaping products. The ban, initiated by the Michigan Chief Medical Executive’s finding that youth vaping constitutes a public health emergency, makes Michigan the first state in the country to take such action amid increased scrutiny of the products and the high rates of use, particularly among children and youth.

Governor Whitmer’s declaration requires the issuance of emergency regulations to prohibit the sale of the flavored products in retail stores and online, as well as to prohibit misleading marketing of the vaping products, including the use of terms such as “clean,” “safe,” and “healthy.” The order also directs the Michigan Department of Transportation to enforce existing statutes which prohibit the advertising of vaping products on billboards. Governor Whitmer, in a statement, indicated, “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.”

The emergency regulations in Michigan are still being finalized and are expected to take effect within the coming weeks. Businesses in Michigan would then have one month to comply. The emergency regulations will be in effect for six months and can be renewed for an additional six months. Reports suggest the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services would work on the development of permanent regulations banning flavored electronic cigarettes while the emergency regulations are in effect.

Vaping industry representatives criticized the move, contending the emergency ban would hurt businesses in the state and create a black market for flavored electronic cigarettes. Other industry representatives, including those from JUUL Labs, indicated it was in support of bans on flavors that mimic candies or children’s foods, but maintained mint and menthol flavors should still be allowed.

Recall, in California, San Francisco earlier this summer banned the sale and distribution of electronic cigarettes in the city, which is set to take effect in early 2020. JUUL Labs is pursuing a local ballot initiative to override the ban. At the state level, legislative attempts to curb the sale of flavored electronic cigarettes have stalled but may be taken up again next year.