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Whitmer administration withdraws flavored nicotine vaping ban

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The rules are being withdrawn with permission from the legislative “Joint Committee on Administrative Rules”—or “JCAR”

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration has withdrawn its ban on flavored nicotine vaping products, just before it was to take effect.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is crediting the move to progress on a legislative solution.

The rules are being withdrawn with permission from the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR), made up of members from both chambers of the legislature.

State Rep. Luke Meerman (R-Coopersville) said he feels like the committee is the wrong place for the ban to begin with, though it’s not his call.

“All of that JCAR can do then is deal with the rules that are in front of them. What do they think of them? Do they think that there needs to be changes?” Meerman said. He added that the committee was preparing to request changes if the rules had not been withdrawn.

The move is taking place with permission from JCAR, meaning DHHS could resume the rule process at any time.

As for now, the administration seems to be throwing its support behind a bill package supported by Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich (D-Flint).

If passed, that legislation would de-emphasize an outright ban in term for higher taxes and regulation on flavored nicotine vaping items.

The move is drawing criticism from supporters of the flavor ban—including the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network.

Andrew Schepers is the group’s Michigan government relations director. He said he believes the governor shares the goal of preventing teens from picking up a tobacco habit but that the bill package could do more harm than good. That’s because he worries about the possibility for higher tax rates on vaping products pushing consumers toward more dangerous smoking habits.

“The real bad thing we’re worried about is that if we go ahead and make these changes, it could be another decade to a decade and a half before we have an opportunity to maybe clean it up,” Schepers said.

Researchers are also expressing concern that disproportionately targeting vaping products could have adverse consequences.

University of Michigan public health professor Kenneth Warner said some smokers tend to treat cigarettes and e-cigarettes as substitutes for each other.

“What we know further is that people are very price responsive. If you increase the price of e-cigarettes without increasing the price of cigarettes by a whole lot more, you’re actually going to encourage people who have managed to quit smoking with e-cigarettes to switch back,” Warner said.

The bill package to replace the DHHS rules is currently stalled in a senate committee.