The governor of Michigan says she has ordered the state’s health department to put out emergency rules banning the sale of flavored e-cigarettes in both brick-and-mortar stores and online for six months. She also announced plans to prevent companies from marketing the products as “clean,” “safe,” “healthy,” and with other terminology that would present vaping as a harmless alternative to smoking tobacco.
“As governor, I’m going to do it unilaterally until I can get the legislature to adopt a statute and write it into law,” Governor Gretchen Whitmer told MSNBC. “This is too important.”
The issue has become one of concern around the world as vaping technology steadily replaces cigarettes as the preferred method of tobacco intake for many users. Recently, many high profile cases of health risks caused by vapes containing both tobacco and marijuana have surfaced in California and Milwaukee, among other US locations.
Last month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released data showing that 215 cases of severe lung illness that could be attributed to vaping had taken place recently. The report was unable to say how vaping could have led to the health risk, and stated that the agency would be continuing to investigate what, exactly, was leading to the hospitalizations.
Spread of vaping technology has been aided by aggressive marketing campaigns on the part of vaping companies. Phillip Morris came under fire in March when plans were publicized to launch a channel on Vice Media’s UK platform featuring vaping ads, potentially violating England’s laws against advertising tobacco products to minors.
Though Michigan would be the first state to launch such a ban, other jurisdictions have moved to keep e-cigarettes out. San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors voted in June to ban the products, citing a similar concern over user health. But the city has now become a battleground for the issue, largely due to the fact that the Juul corporation is located in San Francisco itself. In fact, Juul announced the purchase of a new 29-floor building to accommodate its expanding staff — on the very day of the Board of Supervisors’ vote.
Now, Juul has thrown $4.3 million — more than any other political group in this election cycle — into a ballot measure campaign that would reverse the ban, and has hired activists across the city to hype the fact that many adults use vaping products to kick addictions to smoking.
The company is on track to spend more money on a San Francisco ballot measure campaign than any other entity in the city’s history. That price tag, perhaps, is a healthy reminder that as technology and product preferences among consumers change, the one thing that doesn’t is the power of corporations to influence our personal health.
President of the American Vaping Association Gregory Conley commented that the Michigan vaping ban could actually be dangerous for the state’s residents, saying that it “could send tens of thousands of ex-smokers back to deadly combustible cigarettes.”