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Michigan ban on sale of flavored nicotine vapes in effect

Kaye LaFond

Starting Wednesday, Michigan vape shops will have to stop selling flavored nicotine products. The final rules of the ban were announced two weeks ago. 

They were put in place by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration. The state says that young people vaping has become a public health crisis.

Whitmer directed the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services to impose the ban with the final rules being announced in mid-September. Shops were then given two weeks to clear out their inventory. The department says it can now only comment on the ban in writing because of multiple pending lawsuits challenging the ban.

But Chief Medical Executive, Joneigh Khaldun defended the ban at a public hearing called by Republican lawmakers on the issue in September.

“They particularly target youth and we’ve seen an explosive increase in youths specifically using the e-cigarettes, and that is why this is a public health emergency,” says Khaldun.

Vaping shops disagree, including Northern Michigan Tobacco, a smoke shop in Gaylord.

"So, not only is it hurting small businesses like this one, it's really hurting the consumer," says Alicia Brudna, store manager.

"The only thing that we're allowed to sell now is tobacco-flavored e-liquids. And we carry one. We did have over 150-something flavors yesterday, and now we've got one left," she says.

So far two lawsuits have been filed against the state arguing, among other things, that the ban won’t stop young people from vaping, but it will cause shop owners to go bankrupt and close their doors because flavored products are such a large part of their inventory. 

Ron Pease is the CEO of Mister E-Liquid. The company makes and sells vaping products and has also filed a lawsuit against the state. Pease says what the state needs is responsible Legislation instead of a ban.

“Let’s have a conversation about the marketing,” he said in an interview. “Let’s have a conversation about how youth access the product and how they don’t.”

Judges have ruled that the ban can go forward for now, despite the pending lawsuits. Pease says he’ll follow the ban.

“It could mean that we move our multi-million dollar company out of the state of Michigan. It could mean that we shut the doors,” he says.

Retailers that violate the emergency rules can be found guilty of a misdemeanor and face no more than six months in jail or a fine of up to $200, or both. The ban is in effect for 180 days, but it can be extended for another six months.

Reporter Kaye LaFond contributed to this report.