September 5, 2019 9:54AM

Michigan Bans Flavored E‐​Cigarettes

By Jeffrey Miron and Erin Partin

Today, Michigan became the first state to announce an outright ban on the sale of flavored e‐​cigarettes. Governor Gretchen Whitmer (D) explained the decision by saying, “As governor, I’m going to do it unilaterally until I can get the legislature to adopt a statute and write it into law.”

This executive decision will impact nearly half a million Michiganders who use e‐​cigarettes. The ban prohibits the retail or online sale of flavored e‐​cigarettes or vaping liquid, including mint and menthol flavorings. Flavored e‐​cigarettes account for nearly three quarters of all e‐​cigarettes, so the impact will be widely felt.

The governor cites increasing youth use of flavored e‐​cigarettes and recent CDC reports of respiratory illnesses that may be associated with e‐​cigarette use in justifying the ban. However, this heavy‐​handed response goes far beyond what is necessary or acceptable.

Although youth use of e‐​cigarettes has increased in the past several years, the rate of cigarette use among young people has plummeted to near historic lows. Concerns that vaping may lead to respiratory illnesses are, as yet, unsupported by any robust research. The 215 cases of pulmonary disease under investigation by the CDC comprise less than one ten‐​thousandth of one percent of all e‐​cigarette users in the United States. Meanwhile, half a million people die each year from smoking cigarettes. Studies have shown that e‐​cigarette use is associated with a reduction in combustible tobacco consumption and an increase in smoking cessation efforts. A de facto ban on electronic cigarettes will drive consumers back to combustible tobacco products, ultimately leading to worse health outcomes.

Prohibition does not work. Since the early 2000s, e‐​cigarettes have provided smokers with alternatives to combustible tobacco and facilitated cessation efforts. Banning products that have a proven track record of harm reduction, due to unsubstantiated fears, is not the way forward. Governor Whitmer’s ban is certain to face legal challenges. One can only hope that reason will prevail.