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Vape shop sues to stop Michigan's ban on flavored e-cigs

DAVID EGGERT

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — The owner of a northern Michigan vape shop sued Wednesday to stop the state's ban on flavored electronic cigarettes, contending the rules are illegal and will force him to close his store.

Mark Slis, who operates 906 Vapor in Houghton, filed the lawsuit in Houghton County Circuit Court. It is believed to be the first of what could be several legal challenges against the ban that was announced by Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

The emergency rules were issued a week ago, and retailers must comply starting Oct. 2.

Slis said at least 80% of his inventory is prohibited under the ban, and his business cannot survive without selling flavored vaping products.

"The emergency rules fail to take into consideration the impact banning flavored vapor products will have on the overall Michigan population, including adult former smokers like me," he wrote in an affidavit attached to the suit, which seeks an injunction. He noted that selling e-cigarettes to minors already is illegal, and that his shop routinely checks the ID of any customer who appears to be under age 30.

The suit contends that the rules are procedurally and substantially invalid, and that officials should not have circumvented the regular rule-making process. Slis say the state cannot prohibit adult use for "an extremely narrow subgroup of the public" and argues that many of the estimated 500,000 users of vaping products in Michigan rely on them to quit smoking tobacco.

Michigan, New York and Rhode Island have recently banned flavored vaping products in response to an explosion in teen vaping in recent years. President Donald Trump said this month that the federal government would act to prohibit thousands of flavors used in e-cigarettes because they appeal to underage users.

Juul Labs Inc., the nation's largest e-cigarette maker, said Wednesday it would stop advertising its products in the U.S. and replace its chief executive. That news comes amid a crackdown on vaping after a recent outbreak of lung illnesses, including 10 reported deaths. No major e-cigarette company, including Juul, has been tied to the ailments.

Recent surveys found one in four high school seniors reported that they had vaped nicotine in the month before they were asked about it.

Whitmer has accused companies of using candy flavors and deceptive advertising to "hook children on nicotine." Her spokeswoman Tiffany Brown declined to comment on the suit but said Whitmer "is fully committed to protecting children and public health."

The state Department of Health and Human Services, which issued the rules at Whitmer's direction, is named as the defendant in the case.

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An earlier version of this story was corrected to fix the spelling of Marc Slis' first name, which had been misspelled "Mark."

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