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Michigan ban on flavored e-cigarettes halted

Jason Schott

Michigan’s vape shop owners scored a major victory in court on Tuesday when a judge blocked the state's ban on flavored e-cigarettes, which went into effect on Oct. 2.

Court of Claims Judge Cynthia Stephens, in her decision, said Tuesday that the facts of the case weigh “in favor of granting relief” and banned the state from enforcing the rules against flavored vaping products “until further order of this court.”

The injunction was issued by Judge Stephens on the case involving a lawsuit filed by a business owner who sells vape products, Marc Slis, owner of 906 Vapor in Houghton, Michigan.

“There should be no question that we completely disagree," Gov. Whitmer’s office said immediately after the ruling and said they would have more of a response shortly. Michigan announced its ban on flavored vaping products on Sept. 4 - the first in the nation to do so - and it went into effect two weeks later.

The emergency rules issued by Gov. Whitmer prohibit the sale of flavored nicotine vaping products, including to adults, and the misleading marketing of e-cigarettes. The ban was in response to Chief Medical Executive Joneigh Khaldun declaring a public health emergency over the increase in youth e-cigarette use.

The six-month ban was implemented on Sept.18, and businesses had 14 days to comply with it or they would be subject to potential jailing and a $200 fine.

Gov. Whitmer has accused companies of using candy flavors and deceptive advertising to "hook children on nicotine."

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reported a 78 percent increase from 2017 to 2018 among high school students now vaping. More than one in four high school students reported vaping in the past month, up from 1 in 5 students in 2018, according to the latest statistics. E-cigarette use among middle school students also increased.

“We’ve just seen sky-rocketing numbers among kids in middle and high school in recent years and what we’ve found was the flavored nicotine e-cigarettes are particularly appealing because of the flavor,” Bob Wheaton, a spokesman with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services told Fox 2 in Detroit recently. “These flavors are designed to attract children to get them to start.”

In the 2018 National Youth Tobacco Survey, researchers found that, among high school students who vaped often, 88.1 percent previously or still use tobacco. Among students who infrequently vaped, 60 percent previously or still use tobacco.

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The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported that, as of October 8, 2019, 1,299 lung injury cases associated with the use of e-cigarette, or vaping, products have been reported to the agency from 49 states, the District of Columbia, and 1 U.S. territory. Twenty-six deaths have been confirmed in 21 states.

All patients have reported a history of using e-cigarette, or vaping, products, and most patients report a history of using tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)-containing products. The CDC report stated that “the latest national and state findings suggest products containing THC, particularly those obtained off the street or from other informal sources (e.g. friends, family members, illicit dealers), are linked to most of the cases and play a major role in the outbreak.”

The CDC also cautions that “e-cigarette, or vaping, products should never be used by youths, young adults, or women who are pregnant.”

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The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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