Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed Senate Bills 106 and 155 this week. This legislation prohibits the sale and possession of e-cigarettes to minors. Governor Whitmer expressed reservation that the legislation will move Michigan one step in the right direction by expressly banning sales of these products to minors, and one step in the wrong direction by separating e-cigarettes from the definition of tobacco products.
In 2016, the FDA took the historic step of deeming non-traditional nicotine products, like e-cigarettes, to be subject to the same tobacco product regulations as cigarettes, roll-your-own tobacco, and smokeless tobacco. Senate Bill 106 creates two new categories of nicotine products—“vapor products” and “alternative nicotine products”—and restricts youth access to them. In so doing, it separates e-cigarettes from the definition of tobacco products in a way that could be used to exempt these products from evidence-based tobacco control.
Decades of experience and research demonstrate the only way through a comprehensive approach to tobacco control such as smoke-free laws and taxation can ensure a positive impact on health outcomes. E-cigarettes were initially marketed as a tool to help smokers avoid the harmful effects of inhaling tobacco smoke. Today the marketing, packaging, and taste of e-cigarettes are perfectly designed to create new nicotine addicts, who then convert to lifelong smokers at alarming rates.
In 2018, 21 percent of American high school students and 5 percent of middle school students—children as young as 12—reported having used e-cigarettes or other vape products in the last 30 days. From 2017 to 2018 e-cigarette sales to high school students increased by 78 percent.
Governor Whitmer also proposed two additional steps past signing the bills. First, for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) to work with the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) to provide recommendations on how Michigan should regulate e-cigarettes. Second, she is asking the Michigan Department of Treasury to consider MDHHS’s recommendations and determine whether the FDA’s reasons for deeming e-cigarettes to be tobacco products should also apply to Michigan law on the licensing and taxation of tobacco products.
In response to this signature, the Michigan State Medical Society has joined other stakeholders to express disappointment and hopes to see new legislation to define e-cigarettes as tobacco products and adds them to Michigan’s smoke-free law and taxes them at the same rate as other tobacco products.