Gov. Gretchen Whitmer doesn’t think President Donald Trump is blowing smoke when it comes to dealing with the youth vaping epidemic. She praised the Trump Administration on Wednesday for its intention to finalize a compliance policy that would clear the market of unauthorized, non-tobacco-flavored e-cigarette products. 

Last week, Michigan became the first state in the nation to ban flavored nicotine products, after Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, Whitmer’s chief medical executive, determined that youth vaping constituted a public health emergency.

Whitmer applauded the Trump administration for their parallel move.

“I’m glad this administration is doing the right thing and following Michigan’s lead to ban flavored vaping products,” Whitmer said. “This is great news for our kids, our families, and our overall public health… Banning these flavors is a bold step that will keep our kids healthy and safe from the harmful effects of vaping. I’m proud that Michigan has been a leader on this issue, and I’m ready to continue working to protect our kids and our public health.” 

In a statement, Alex Azar, U.S. Health and Human Services secretary, explained the decision was an effort to combat the harmful effects of youth vaping.

“The Trump Administration is making it clear that we intend to clear the market of flavored e-cigarettes to reverse the deeply concerning epidemic of youth e-cigarette use that is impacting children, families, schools, and communities,” Azar said. “We will not stand idly by as these products become an on-ramp to combustible cigarettes or nicotine addiction for a generation of youth.”

Last week, the University of Michigan released the annual Monitoring the Future Panel Study, which has tracked substance use among American college students and non-college youth since the 1980s. The study found dramatic increases in the vaping of marijuana and nicotine among young adults nationally. 

John Schulenberg, the principal investigator of the Monitoring the Future Panel Study, discussed how public perception of vaping has a dramatic effect on youth usage. 

“It’s really tied into people’s perceptions of harm,” Schulenberg said. “That is, how much harm do you think someone’s doing if they vape frequently or regularly, and when perception of harm goes up, it goes down, and vice versa, when perceptions of harm go down, use goes up.” 

Schulenberg noted the trends identified in the study might shift given the recent spate of high profile injuries connected to vaping that left users hospitalized.

“What’s happening the past couple of months, it’s kind of going against it, people do see it as a big thing,” Schulenberg said. “But, you know, our data were collected in 2017-2018, before all these tragedies with people ending up in emergency rooms because of vaping.”

LSA junior Blaine Thompson said he was frustrated by Whitmer’s ban, citing the lack of streamlined policy-making. 

“Targeting and banning an entire industry on the basis of a shaky hypothesis is juvenile, to say the least,” Thompson said. “On top of that, going around the elected representatives of the state by declaring a state of ‘emergency’ is wildly tyrannical.”

Thompson went on to express discontent with the Trump administration’s decision to follow Whitmer’s lead. He said a ban negatively impacts individuals who use the products to break their addiction to cigarettes without the artificial tobacco flavor. 

“It’s so premature and it does nothing but hurt the people that use it for what it’s designed for but happen to hate the fake tobacco flavor,” Thompson said.  

Schulenberg concluded with a warning. While vaping may seem like a harmless pastime, the threat of a lifetime of addiction looms constantly over any and all users. 

“The thing with nicotine is that it’s addictive,” Schulenberg said. “And I can imagine people want to try vaping. There’s a buzz around it, and it seems to be culturally sanctioned – it’s legal, if you’re 21 or some places 18. And so what’s the big deal? The big deal, in addition to what we’re seeing with all these tragedies — people ending up in emergency rooms — is that it’s hard to get away from nicotine once it’s got a hold of you.”

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