Customers streamed in and out of the Vape Hut Kratom-CBD shop in Wyandotte on Wednesday morning, asking Abraham Mohsim questions about the e-cigarette pods and flavored vape juice that filled the …
“We won’t shut down our shop because flavored vaping products are shut down. We’ll just remove our vaping products,” he said. “But a lot of people who run strictly vape shops would lose a lot of money, probably their businesses. This is coming out of nowhere.”
Vaping connected to lung infections, addiction
Whitmer’s announcement comes on the heels of a spate of severe lung infections tied to e-cigarette use in Michigan and nationally.
At least 215 people in 25 states have developed life-threatening respiratory illnesses tied to vaping, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Six people in Michigan have been hospitalized, according to the MDHHS, and one person in Illinois has died of the illness.
Michigan law prohibits the sale of e-cigarettes to anyone under the age of 18, but young people are using the products anyway. About 3.62 million middle and high school students used e-cigarettes in 2018, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. A 2013-14 survey on e-cigarette use found that 81% of young e-cigarette users said the appealing flavor options were a major reason for their use.
“It is created and appealing to children,” Whitmer said. “Bubblegum flavor, Fruit Loop flavor, Motts apple juice flavor. These are things that are targeted toward children, getting them addicted, creating consumers for them so they can make money at the risk of children’s health. These are kids whose brains aren’t even finished forming who are growing addicted to nicotine. They are not getting off of traditional cigarettes, they are starting a nicotine habit and an addiction because they’re appealing directly to them.”
Whitmer’s ban also prohibits e-cigarette companies from “misleading marketing of vaping products” by using words like “clear,” “safe” or “healthy” to describe their products.
Dr. Daniel Ouellette, a pulmonologist and senior staff physician at Henry Ford Hospital, applauded the move, which also was supported by the American Lung Association, the American Heart Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Pediatrics Michigan Chapter, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, the American Thoracic Society and American College of Chest Physicians, as well as the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and Truth Initiative.
“I think that this is a step forward, and I’m really happy to see that my home state is at the forefront of taking this initiative,” said Ouellette, who also is an associate professor at Wayne State University’s School of Medicine.
“For me, as a lung specialist, I think that the only good thing in your lungs is air.”
Ouellette said the dangers of vaping still aren’t fully known.
“We know with cigarettes it can take 15- 20 years or more after having started smoking to have an increased risk of cancer,” he said. “If we would extrapolate that same kind of data, it’s going to be a couple of decades before we know this for sure about e-cigarettes.
“What we do know is that there are some potential carcinogens in the vapor products. We do know that at least potentially there’s a risk. Who would want to be 20 years down the road from now and be faced with an epidemic of lung cancer because we didn’t act to control and study e-cigarettes?”
But he said it’s clear that e-cigarettes are highly addictive — and that’s especially true for young people whose brains are more susceptible to addiction — and the contents of the e-cigarette cartridges may contain chemicals that are harmful when heated.
“One tank or canister of solution for an e-cigarette contains as much nicotine as a pack of cigarettes,” Ouellette said. “So people who use these e-cigarettes are going to get addicted to nicotine. That, by itself, is an adverse consequence. Not only will they be addicted to e-cigarettes but also potentially to other tobacco products.
“In addition, these e-cigarettes contain propellants, liquids … in which the nicotine is dissolved. … There’s also the ability to put in other things,” such as flavors, cannabinoid (CBD) products and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the primary psychoactive component of marijuana.
“So there are a great variety of dangers that can be posed by the use of these e-cigarettes,” he said.
The CDC’s investigation of e-cigarette-associated illnesses hasn’t pointed to any specific products but suggests that many of the people who were sickened used e-cigarettes with liquids that contained CBD.
Ouellette said he’s hopeful the FDA will take action soon to regulate e-cigarettes.
“We can all expect tighter controls in the future,” he said. “The action of the state of Michigan is a good action. … It’s a step ahead, and that’s where we want to be.”
Popularity of e-cigarettes hurts young people
At the Vape Hut Kratom-CBD shop in Wyandotte, a young person approached the sales counter Wednesday morning, asking to buy a vaping product.
Standing behind the cash register, Moshim told him: “I need ID, man.”
The young man shrugged and said he didn’t bring his wallet.
“Get your wallet and come back later,” Moshim said. “I’ll be here all day.”
After the young man left, Moshim turned and said: “I get about two or three of those a week.”
Still, Moshim isn’t sure it’s a good decision to ban flavored e-cigarettes altogether.
“Two of my brothers stopped smoking cigarettes because they used the Juul,” he said of a popular brand of e-cigarettes. “What’s good is they were able to wean off the Juul much, much, much easier than they were able to wean off the cigarettes. Now, my brother, he barely hits the Juul because he was trying to stop smoking cigarettes.
“He’s eventually going to have no nicotine, no nothing. … I mean, I don’t get really how you can ban flavored stuff when cigarettes are still legal, when alcohol is still legal.”
But for medical professionals, the illnesses caused by e-cigarettes is concerning especially among the young.
“I know just from going to my local high school that kids are using them,” Ouellette said. “I can see them on college campuses where my son is. All of us see this every day. We know that kids are getting them. They are getting them from their older peers who are buying them.”
The six cases of e-cigarette-associated lung disease in Michigan are among people ages 19-39, the MDHHS reported. That’s ordinarily an age range of people with healthy lungs, Ouellette said, and a population not typically affected by lung disease, which typically affects middle-age to older people.
“The patients who have been reported are very ill,” Ouellette said. “They will come to the hospital or the emergency department with shortness of breath, and they will have very abnormal X-rays, and that’s been the characteristic of the patients who’ve been seen up until now. … I think that we can expect to see more of these reported in the future.”
Hass Khalil, the owner of the Tobacco Stop in Southgate, said vaping products make up about 20% of his business. He says he doubts he’ll be able to sell down his inventory before the ban takes effect, and that could cost him as much as $10,000.
“Is (the ban) good for people? I think yes,” Khalil said. “Especially, with what’s happening. I heard the young teenagers, they mix stuff. They mix CBD with vape, they mix it and that’s how they get hurt. Maybe this will help.
“They are very popular, but there is a priority for health.”
Noah, a 23-year-old customer at the Vape Hut who asked not to be fully identified, said he’s been using sweet-flavored e-cigarettes to wean off nicotine.
“I think it’s just under the microscope right now in the media,” he said. “I think more people die from smoking cigarettes. … I’m not saying it’s good for you. It’s not good for you. If you don’t smoke, you shouldn’t start, but I also think that there’s a use for it, and I don’t think people are really understanding that.”
Cigarette smoking kills more than 480,000 adults a year in the U.S., either directly or through secondhand smoke exposure, according to the CDC.
E-cigarettes, Noah said, give people another option.
“In Tennessee, where I came from, chewing tobacco was huge,” he said. “Then I went to this stuff, and now I’m weaning down. I really don’t want to be doing this, to be honest with you.
“I understand where they’re coming from when it comes to sales to kids. Some stores being not as strict on that. Or even people buying it and giving it to their kids. But that’s happened for years with cigarettes and other stuff, too.”
AG pledges support as vaping advocates push back
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel praised Whitmer’s announcement in a statement Wednesday, pledging her department’s support in enforcing the coming rules.
“With a more than 1.5 million increase in the number of students using vaping products in just one year, the governor’s emergency actions today are exactly the bold measures we must take to protect Michigan’s children from the dangerous effects of vaping,” Nessel said in a statement.
While the governor’s move prompted support from health organizations and fellow Democrats, vaping advocates vowed to challenge the ban.
“This shameless attempt at backdoor prohibition will close down several hundred Michigan small businesses and could send tens of thousands of ex-smokers back to deadly combustible cigarettes,” American Vaping Association president Gregory Conley said in a statement. “These businesses and their customers will not go down without a fight.”
Michigan’s new law will “create a massive, multimillion dollar black market” for vaping products, he said, adding that the American Vaping Association will support lawsuits against the ban.
The Consumer Advocates for Smoke-Free Alternatives Association is calling on Michigan residents to call and write to Whitmer and state lawmakers to oppose to the ban.
Whitmer said she’s confident she’s on solid legal ground with this ban.
“I consulted my lawyers. I consulted with the attorney general,” she said. “… I believe that we’ll see other states probably following suit. … American kids are being targeted and exploited and there’s going to be a lifelong price for it.”
Contact Kristen Jordan Shamus: 313-222-5997 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @kristenshamus.
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Vaping shops stand to lose in Michigan’s e-cigarette ban
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