The moment Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, announced that she was banning flavored e-cigarettes, she was met with praise from an echo chamber.
Groups like the American Heart Association or the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, both prominent tobacco control advocacy organizations, cheered.
“Whitmer has taken necessary and appropriate emergency action to address the growing epidemic of youth e-cigarette use by suspending sales of all flavored e-cigarettes in the state,” reads a joint statement from both organizations and a coalition of other groups like the American Lung Association, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, and the Truth Initiative. “The youth e-cigarette epidemic is nothing short of a public health emergency that must be urgently confronted.”
Whitmer’s executive order comes as anti-vaping interests gain new fervor. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, also a Democrat, announced that he is directing his administration to investigate vape companies and their manufacturing processes.
Michael Bloomberg announced that he has committed $160 million to ban e-cigarette flavors nationwide.
Cuomo, in a press conference, also voiced his interest in banning flavors, as Whitmer did, in the near future. A source of mine employed by the New York State Department of Health speculates that Cuomo’s proposed ban will come in the form of a public health emergency declaration.
“This is a frightening public health phenomenon,” Cuomo warned during this press conference.
Michael Bloomberg, the controversial billionaire owner of Bloomberg L.P., also announced that he has committed $160 million to ban e-cigarette flavors nationwide. In partnership with the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, the billionaire’s charitable foundation Bloomberg Philanthropies will work to end flavored e-cigarette sales ostensibly for the protection of the children.
“We will help at least 20 cities and states pass laws banning all flavored tobacco and e-cigarettes,” Bloomberg wrote in a recent New York Times commentary piece he co-authored with Matthew Myers, the president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “We will evaluate the impact of these rules on youth use and share lessons with other cities and states.”
A potential catastrophe?
These new developments from the tobacco control space demonstrate a lack of remorse.
In Michigan, the fallout from Whitmer’s flavor ban has the potential to be devastating to local businesses and statewide public health.
The whole point of switching to vaping is to try to get away from smoking, including the taste.
Vaping Post recently commissioned me to write and publish a special report documenting the cost the flavor ban is likely to have on tobacco harm reduction efforts in the state. In that piece, I quoted Michael Siegel is a prominent physician in preventive medicine from the School of Public Health at Berkeley (USA). Taking a firm stand for electronic cigarette, Michael Siegel has been personally attacked and excluded from focus groups around the tobacco issue, despite his high reputation in the United States and Europe. His positrons are clear: the electronic cigarette is at least as efficient as any other alternative treatments. He denounces the influence of the US classic cigarette manufacturers (which provide considerable assistance to help the most disadvantaged families and in terms of social security) and those he calls Big Pharma; some influences that affect the development of the electronic cigarette industry.
“>Michael Siegel, a professor of community health sciences at Boston University, condemning the ban as a potential catastrophe.
I followed up with Siegel, asking him to specify his concerns.
“The majority of adult vapers prefer flavored e-cigarette products,” he said in an email. “The tobacco and menthol flavors are used by a minority of vapers. One of the reasons for this is that the whole point of switching to vaping is to try to get away from smoking, including the taste. Also, the flavors themselves are appealing to many vapers, and add substantially to the enjoyment of the experience.”
Siegel’s logic additionally builds on the oft-cited Greek cardiologist I’ve weaned down to the bare minimum of nicotine,” she wrote proudly. “I can now RUN with my kids…my 12-year-old and I just ran a 5K.”
Hubert also assured that she and her children, 16 and 12, have “open communication” about her vape.
“Neither of them has touched my vape,” she said. “Why wouldn’t you as a parent step up?”
Hubert’s story is not unique, either. Dennis Kaiser, a father of one, told me that vaping was a recent life-changing experience.
“I started smoking cigarettes at the age of 13 years old,” he said. “I was a pack a day, Newport menthol 100’s kind of guy. At almost 8 dollars a pack, quickly decreased health, and a 6-year-old little boy begging me to quit so I could grow old to watch him grow up, it was time for me to quit smoking.”
Kaiser started vaping out of necessity, which was a decision he made no more than two weeks ago.
“My roommate went out and bought me a Smok vape mod from Vape Ape in Mount Pleasant, Michigan, along with a bottle of fruit monster blueberry vape juice with only .3 mg of nicotine,” Kaiser told me. “At first, I had my vape in my hand constantly hitting it. But, not once, have I craved a cigarette since. I tried smoking a cigarette the morning after I got the vape, and the taste of a cigarette that I’ve smoked for 21 years turned my stomach. It tasted so disgusting, I put it out after only 3 hits.”
Kaiser’s story is very interesting to me, but not unique. This is especially the case when he said: “I will not quit vaping.”
Much of what these vapers told me are shared sentiments among millions who vape. People just won’t quit because of Whitmer’s flavor ban. Hopefully, this lesson will be learned one day soon.
Reporting from Michigan and Colorado.
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