FILE - Vape products, nicotine

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administrative order calling for a six-month ban on flavored vaping products has received national attention and even support from ranking members of the state’s Republican majority legislature.

Whitmer’s maneuver, however, also has its detractors. Some defend e-cigarettes as preferable to traditional tobacco cigarettes. Among this mindset is conservative columnist George Will, who warns that outlawing e-cigarettes might spike an increase in cigarette smoking.

“More cigarettes might be sold because of bans on vaping products – because smokers cannot use e-cigarettes to stop smoking, or because teenage vapers will move on to readily available cigarettes,” Will wrote in his Washington Post column this past July. 

Will recommends increased public information campaigns that advise against the use of e-cigarettes in much the same way public service announcements educated the populace on the health dangers of smoking traditional cigarettes.  

Alex Berezow, vice president of scientific affairs at the American Council of Science and Health, told The Center Square he also is concerned new rules such as Whitmer’s could result in the unintended consequence of prompting young people to smoke traditional cigarettes, a habit he noted that has fallen precipitously since the advent of e-cigarettes.

Emphasizing neither he nor ACHS condones the use of e-cigarettes by minors, Berezow also notes vaping is 95 percent safer than tobacco.

“In an ideal world, we don’t want kids to smoke anything,” he said. “But we also don’t want to exaggerate when there are far worse alternatives. Of all things dangerous that kids can do, vaping isn’t close to the worst.”

Contrary to claims by Whitmer, Berezow said the evidence vaping is a gateway to smoking traditional tobacco is slim. However, he recommends regulating e-cigarettes as a medical device available only to individuals seeking to overcome cigarette addiction.

Another contingent opposed to Whitmer’s ban claims it will increase the use of counterfeit and black market products that are less safe for consumers.

Writing in the Washington Post, Scott Gottlieb, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and former Food and Drug Administration commissioner, noted many of the vaping issues reported by state health departments resulted from illegal vape juices delivered to consumers via legal vaping hardware.

“Many of the cases seem to involve vaped liquids that contain ingredients from cannabis, such as THC [marijuana’s psychoactive compound] or the cannabidiol known as CBD,” Gottlieb wrote.

“There were uncertainties about the health effects of e-cigs, but we saw them as a less harmful alternative to cancer-causing tobacco for addicted adult smokers,” he added.

Gottlieb favors more FDA regulation of e-cigarettes, but opposes bans that he says only encourage black-market and counterfeit products.

Gottlieb’s observation is echoed by American Vaping Association president Gregory Conley, who wrote in a statement: “Governor Whitmer’s ban will create a massive, multi-million dollar black market for these products, which are the same conditions that led to the recent spate of lung illnesses that are now clearly linked to illegal THC vaping products.”

Conley continued: “The CDC is now specifically warning against vaping homemade vaping products, yet this is the exact kind of behavior that a state-instituted flavor ban will lead to.”

Regional Editor

Bruce Walker is a regional editor at The Center Square. He previously worked as editor at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy’s MichiganScience magazine and The Heartland Institute’s InfoTech & Telecom News.