Michigan health groups call vaping bill package 'weak'

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click to enlarge A young woman vaping nicotine. - Shutterstock
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A young woman vaping nicotine.

A package of tobacco regulation bills is headed to the Michigan House, and some health organizations are concerned that it doesn't go far enough to protect kids.

Senate Bills 781 and 786 passed the Senate on Wednesday, and include new regulations on the sale of e-cigarettes. Andrew Schepers, government relations director with the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network in Michigan, says they're especially troubled by SB 781, which sets a tax rate for vaping products at 18%.

He contends all e-cigarettes should be defined as a tobacco product and taxed at the same 32% rate.

"When we do that, there's no winners and losers at the end of the day," says Schepers. "There's no cheaper product for somebody to buy. They're all going to have the same tax liability and so they're all going to have the same good public health effect in terms of driving people away from using tobacco."

The sponsors of the bills said they worked with industry members on the proposals, and noted establishing tax policy for vaping products is a gray area. Nationally, e-cigarette use rose 78% among high school students from 2017 to 2018, and Michigan has mirrored the same trend.

Schepers is urging House lawmakers to examine ways to make the package of bills stronger, and not rush it through hearings.

"If we don't do it right now, we're going to be at least a decade if not more before we have an opportunity to actually do something in this regulatory space again," says Schepers. "So it's critical that when we do this, we get it right the first time."

The package of bills raises the age for purchase of tobacco and vaping products from 18 to 21 years old; prohibits businesses from promoting the health effects of e-cigarettes compared with tobacco cigarettes; and sets up a licensing system for the sale of vaping products.

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