The Michigan flavored vape ban is in full effect. Anyone residing in the state, regardless of age, can no longer buy electronic vape flavors other than tobacco. Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer looks to protect children from these nicotine products at the expense of everyone else, especially those attempting to quit smoking. Over the weekend, I ran into Steve Johnson, the Republican state representative from the 72nd district of Michigan. He made clear that he is working against the governor to restore sensibility and liberty to this vape ban.
Governor Whitmer’s Vape Ban
“The governor has declared a public health emergency because of several deaths related to e-cigarettes,” Johnson explains. However, the deaths are not as cut and dry as the media nor the governor make them seem. Representative Johnson continued that “if you look at those deaths, they’re not with those off the shelf products. They’re usually homemade, usually including THC and vitamin E acetate.”
Johnson continued that the governor’s move baffles him: “By banning all those flavors, she’s going to have more people go to the black market, which is where the deaths are occurring.” The basic economics of black markets shows this to be true. When the government bans a product, the product doesn’t cease to exist. Rather, it’s sold without a regulatory framework and the illegality drives up prices, making it extremely profitable to sell bootleg products. Because of Governor Whitmer’s actions, according to the Michigan representative, we’re “going to have a greater health emergency.”
Clearly, this vape ban is problematic. Governor Whitmer is not acting for the benefit of Michigan citizens. Her logic is backward and is going to do far more harm than good. I asked him what he’s doing to fight back against the new laws. “Originally,” representative Johnson said, “we wanted to go straight legislation to overturn the ban. Unfortunately, there’s no way she’ll sign that and we don’t have the votes to override the veto.”
“There is a way we can try to give her a win and also protect those who are trying to quit smoking,” representative Johnson continues. As a solution, representative Johnson proposes that they roll back the ban on flavored e-cigarette products that contain less than 2% nicotine. Most former-smokers use 2% nicotine, so this would decrease nicotine consumption while still helping smokers quit.
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The future isn’t exactly pretty, though. Governor Whitmer is probably going to be a tough nut to crack. “The biggest hurdle is the governor. As a legislature, we’ve had some pretty significant wins over her, but I feel like she’s going to dig her heels in on this one and say ‘I’ve got the power and I’m not going to give it up.'” They’ve managed to beat her in the past, but they may not be able to on the vape ban.
When I asked representative Johnson if he was optimistic about rolling back the ban, he sighed. “No, I’m not. I wish I was. I give it a 30-40% chance. I’m worried they’re going to raise taxes or raise the age to 21. I’m worried they’re going to use a massive regulatory scheme on this.”
He added, “The people in this industry are willing to do anything to keep their doors open.”
The Cigarette Lobby
I also asked Johnson if the cigarette industry has anything to do with the vaping ban. “I think that there’s an influence for sure. Anyone worth their salt would admit that cigarettes are more harmful than e-cigarettes, but [the governor] is only going after e-cigarettes.”
However, the cigarette industry may not be the sole culprit. “What about menthols? What about THC gummies? Those seem to be targeted towards younger people. It seems like she’s targeting one industry over the others. But the government gets higher tax rates from those. They don’t get as high a tax rate from e-cigarettes. I think that could be a player in this.”
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