MI E-Liquid Flavor Ban: What Retailers Can Do

Background

As you likely already know, Governor Gretchen Whitmer has issued an emergency decree banning the sale of flavored e-liquids to anyone in the state of Michigan. The ban will likely commence in one month, and will remain in force for six months–at least.

Her first justification is that children might be enticed by flavors and interesting packaging. Even though sales to minors are already against the law, she states this is her main reason for banning sales to adults. Since it’s an “emergency” decree, Whitmer was able to circumvent both the legislature and the court system to accomplish this.

Her second stated reason for banning flavored e-liquids is that hospitalization rates from vaping are high enough to justify emergency measures. But are they?

There are 209,128,094 adults in the United States. One out of every 20 of them vape, according to Reuters. This means 10,456,405 (about 10.5 million) U.S. adults are vapers. Of those 10.5 million, 156 (fewer in other accounts, but this is the highest number we could find) have been hospitalized “after vaping.” That’s one hundred and fifty-six, or 0.00001% of total vapers.

Of those 0.00001%, it has not been disclosed how long after vaping they were hospitalized. It has not been stated how frequently they vaped, how many times, for how long, or even whether they had vaped recently. It hasn’t been stated how old these patients were or how serious their conditions were–or even what their specific conditions were. In other words, for all the public knows, these people may have vaped only once six years ago and have gone to the hospital last year for a common cold. Even the CDC has stated (for now) there is no definitive causation between vaping and the hospitalizations in question. This is the so-called “emergency” that Whitmer has based her ban on.

The Untold Story

The pharmaceutical industry, one of the state’s biggest lobbies, produces “nicotine replacement therapies.” The quit smoking industry is a multi-billion dollar industry; in fact, the same entities behind vaping bans were behind Michigan’s bar and restaurant smoking ban, which was merely an effort to boost sales of NRTs. The explosion of e-cigs was unexpected, and has decimated sales of pills, patches, and gum.

NRTs can work to quit smoking short-term, but have almost no long-term efficacy. Numerous studies show after six weeks, they’re actually less effective than placebo! In contrast, millions of ex-smokers have successfully quit smoking via e-cigs.

State legislators receive massive “campaign donations” from the pharmaceutical industry, and ABC cancer charities actually receive more “donations” from pharmaceutical and chemical companies than from individual donors. That funding has put vaping squarely in the cross hairs of many politicians and so-called “health organizations.”

Even colleges and hospitals receive large “grants” from the pharmaceutical industry; “smoking bans” on campuses almost always include chewing tobacco and vaping–but not NRTs. A smoking/vaping ban generally amounts to a “non-pharmaceutical nicotine ban.”

Purportedly due to financial issues, vape manufacturer Juul stopped making flavored e-liquids late in 2018, and they have now come forward in support Whitmer’s statewide flavor ban. It could be said that their support in banning competing companies from selling flavored liquids either is awfully convenient.

Whitmer received nearly $20,000 in ‘campaign donations’ from the pharmaceutical industry, about $20,000 from “health services,” $1.2 million from “lawyers and lobbyists,” and over $145,000 from “health professionals” for her Gubernatorial campaign, according to votesmart.org.

What’s the Endgame?

The six-month ban is likely meant to give lawmakers time to get their “ducks in a row,” so to speak. At best, Whitmer wants the vaping age raised to 21 and for prohibitively high taxes to be levied to discourage vaping sales (though the predictable excuse will be that this will discourage youth sales).

If that’s the case, don’t be fooled by this age-old political tactic. The strategy is for you to be so relieved to just be able to sell flavors again, you won’t care if the minimum age is 21 or 45, just as long as it’s something. But give an inch and the anti-smoking/anti-vaping lobby will take everything, using previous bans as the justification for new ones. If the minimum age is raised to 21, it will be raised again, and again, and again. If a higher tax is put on flavored e-liquids, it will be raised again, and again, and again.

Cigarettes are an obvious and continuing example of this. Nearly every restriction placed on them since the early 1990s has been justified as a necessary deterrent to stop children from purchasing them. But this excuse is used every time, year after year. Somehow, it’s the excuse that keeps on giving.

At worst, Whitmer wants an anti-vaping law passed to make her emergency decree official. In other words, to outlaw flavored e-liquids permanently.

Whichever course of action is taken, the goal is the same: boost NRT sales for one of Michigan’s biggest lobbies by hurting your sales.

What You Can Do

The worst thing you could possibly do is nothing; to wait for “someone else to do something.” In addition to pharmaceutical money, the opposition depends on apathy and misinformation disguised as fact. There are a number of things you CAN, and SHOULD, do, immediately:

1). As a business, sign up to the Michigan Compromise Coalition. We are an alliance of groups and business owners across the entire state who fight both vaping and smoking bans in Michigan. Lawmakers need to see that you are not alone in opposing this measure.

2). Print the following PDF and post it in your shop. It will relay to customers what’s going on and what they can do to help combat this ban:

3). As an individual, join Ban the Ban Michigan, a member group within our coalition. To join, like on facebook. To receive important notifications and updates regarding this and other bans, click “follow” or “following” on the main fb page and make sure “see first” is selected.

4). Don’t support the other side by giving them ammunition. Don’t be vocal to your customers in supporting smoking bans, which originate from the same pharmaceutically-funded entities. The same junk science used to create the perception of secondhand smoke danger to justify smoking bans is now being conducted against vaping. “Secondhand vaping” is already being discussed as a threat to public health. Eventually, studies will be manufactured which “prove” the claim.

Don’t use secondhand smoke as a sales pitch–it will come back to bite you. Instead, inform your customers how junk science is used to justify both smoking and vaping bans.

5). Contact Juul and inform them you will NO LONGER BE CARRYING THEIR PRODUCTS in your store.

If you continue to carry and sell Juul products, you are supporting your opposition in perhaps the most direct way possible.

6). DON’T BUY PHARMACEUTICAL NICOTINE REPLACEMENT THERAPIES (Pills, patches, gum, lozenges, etc). Remember that studies show these are less effective than placebo after six months, and that the pharmaceutical industry has much to gain from both smoking and vaping bans.

7). Contact your state Representative. At the very least, email them. It’s quick, easy, and they DO listen. Reps generally represent geographically small areas, and as a rule of thumb they count everyone who contacts them as the opinion of 20 residents. Find your state Representative’s contact info here. Use the search bar toward the right and enter your ZIP. Next, select the Rep in the LOWER HOUSE to get their contact info.

8). Write to your newspaper. Yes, it may seem like “nobody reads the paper anymore,” but that’s not the case. Quaint as it may seem, letters to the editor can bring a lot of attention to the issue. Politicians and their staff obsess over the papers in their districts. Stress the pharmaceutical connection to help educate the public. Find your newspaper here or do a google search if you can’t find it on the list.

9). Volunteer. Micompco is looking for someone to act as a spokesperson to the press. This may include anything from giving the OK for newspaper quotes to speaking with reporters over the phone. Once we have a spokesperson, we can begin an investigation into the connection between Michigan politicians and health organizations and the pharmaceutical lobby. We are also always looking for people willing to make phone calls to other businesses to join the coalition.