Two state bills would thwart Michigan's ban on flavored nicotine vaping

click to enlarge Flavored vape liquids at Detroit Smoke and Vape in Midtown. - Steve Neavling
Steve Neavling
Flavored vape liquids at Detroit Smoke and Vape in Midtown.

Two bills in the state House of Representatives are aimed at reversing all or part of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s controversial ban on flavored vape liquid.

On Tuesday, state Rep. Steven Johnson, R-Wayland, introduced a bill that would permit the sale of flavored nicotine that has a nicotine level of 20mg/ml or less. Most e-liquids range from 3mg/ml to 50mg/ml. Johnson said the “compromise” bill would make it possible for ex-smokers to continue using vape liquid instead of returning to cigarettes, which kill one of two long-term users.

“We agree there is a problem with youth vaping, but if you look at the big scheme, our youth are going after high nicotine levels, and people who are quitting smoking cigarettes are using low-level nicotine flavors,” Johnson tells Metro Times.

Another bill introduced by Rep. Beau LaFave, R-Iron Mountain, would reverse the state’s ban, which will be enforced on Oct. 2.

LaFave, who called Whitmer an “emperor,” argues the Whitmer overreached her authority by circumventing the legislative process.

"The governor abused her power," LaFave tells Metro Times. “The governor banned e-cigarettes for adults. That is not a decision the governor gets to decide on her own.”

LaFave and Johnson acknowledge their bills won’t be able to prevent the ban from going into effect next week, but they are hopeful that a pending lawsuit from a Michigan-based vape liquid company will prompt a judge to press pause on the ban.

The lawmakers also point out that the vape-related lung illnesses that have sickened more than 530 people and killed at least seven people nationwide are most likely linked to black market cannabis cartridges, not flavored nicotine liquid. Medical experts are increasingly focusing on vitamin E acetate, an agent used to dilute and thicken THC oil in cannabis vape cartridges. THC is the psychoactive component of marijuana.

When vitamin E reaches a high temperature, it transforms from an oil to a vapor. But when the substance is inhaled, it reverts back to oil in the lungs, which can cause pneumonia. Investigators at the Food and Drug Administration found vitamin E acetate in samples collected from patients across the country.
The same compound was found in nearly all cannabis samples from New York patients who have fallen ill in recent weeks, according to that state's health department. In a vast majority of the cases nationwide, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said patients reported using illicit vape cartridges.

Most of the samples tested by the CDC found vitamin E acetate.

Michigan has reported 19 lung illnesses, and health officials are investigating another 19 possible cases. Most of the illnesses are linked to cannabis cartridges, but the state has been silent about it. No deaths have been reported yet.

Critics of Whitmer’s ban say vape users are going to revert to cigarettes, which health experts generally think are far more dangerous than nicotine liquid.

You can read Metro Times' how Michigan’s war on teen vaping is clouding the issue of deadly black-market cannabis in this week's cover story.

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About The Author

Steve Neavling

Steve Neavling is an award-winning investigative journalist who operated Motor City Muckraker, an online news site devoted to exposing abuses of power and holding public officials accountable. Neavling also hosted Muckraker Report on 910AM from September 2017 to July 2018. Before launching Motor City Muckraker,...
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