FILE - Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer wants the Michigan Supreme Court to make the final decision regarding her flavored-vape ban after a judge barred the state from enforcing the ban on October 15.

“After seeing how the Flint water crisis was mishandled, it’s more important than ever that we listen to our public health officials when they make recommendations to protect our citizens,” Whitmer said in a press release Friday.

“Our Chief Medical Officer has found that the explosive increase in youth vaping that we’ve seen over the past few years is a public health emergency. For the sake of our kids and our overall public health, we must act swiftly to get these harmful and addictive products off the market. I’m hopeful that the Supreme Court will immediately take up this case so we can ensure our kids’ safety.”

The ban coincides with severe lung illnesses, 81 percent of which the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) reported Friday included vaping THC products, with the rest vaping nicotine.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates about 75 percent of these severe-lung injuries included vaping black-market THC cartridges, which are associated with 34 deaths and 1,604 cases of associated lung injury across 49 states, as of Oct. 22.

Whitmer has argued the ban is to shield Michigan’s youth from the health hazards of vaping nicotine, but it also includes adults using flavored e-cigarettes to quit cigarettes.

Others, such as Rep. Steve Johnson, R-Wayland, say the way to curtail underage vaping is through legislation. Johnson filed legislation that would limit nicotine content in flavored e-cigarette juice to 2 percent. 

“The legislative path is the right way to approach this and we are grateful for Representative Johnson’s efforts to find a permanent solution to vaping in Michigan," said Michael Ames, chief administrative and compliance officer for Joost Vapor in Grand Rapids. "We are continuing to work with legislators on both sides of the aisle to ensure that children don’t have access to vapor products while allowing adults to have the freedom to make the choices for themselves.”  

Marc Slis, the owner of 906 Vapor in Houghton, sued to overturn the ban earlier this month.

Local vape shop owners said they help people stop smoking cigarettes, which kills about 521,000 people per year, according to the CDC.

Marc Slis, owner of 906 Vapor, told The Center Square he’s working with legislators to find a middle ground to protect children and the most successful method for adults to quit cigarettes.

Slis said he welcomed regulations to keep e-cigarettes out of minors’ hands, such as instituting massive fines for stores that sell to minors and third-party age verification for face-to-face and online sales, which he already uses.

“If you look at the FDA data for youth-sales violations of tobacco and vapor products, we are not the violators,” Slis said, adding that a majority of the violators who sell to minors are convenience stores and gas stations.

Slis said he’s frustrated that the vaping industry is painted as out to harm youth because they sell flavors.

“Flavors are demanded by our adult customers and they are the key to quitting. They were the key to my quitting, and they are the key to every adult quitting,” Slis said. “We will fight to retain that right to use flavors and to successfully quit.”

Slis said he smoked cigarettes for 41 years, 30 of which he “tried to quit every single day using every available method in the country and abroad,” with no success.

He’d said he’d nearly given up trying to quit and was in poor health when he walked into the building that’s now 906 Vapor and walked out with an e-cigarette 20 minutes later, a nonsmoker for the rest of his life.

“That’s what got me into this business: a desire to help other people who’ve been dying for decades, like I was,” Slis said.

Staff Reporter

Scott McClallen is a staff writer covering Michigan and Minnesota for The Center Square. A graduate of Hillsdale College, his work has appeared on Forbes.com and FEE.org. Previously, he worked as a financial analyst at Pepsi.