On Oct. 15, two weeks after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s statewide ban of flavored e-cigarettes took effect, Court of Claims Judge Cynthia Stephens granted a preliminary injunction allowing shops to continue selling flavored e-cigarettes until the ban is ruled on by another court. This will last for six months. The decision came after multiple vape shop owners filed lawsuits after the ban was announced.
Whitmer immediately released a statement denouncing Stephens’ decision as undermining expert opinions. She also used the Flint water crisis to explain why she believed the court should listen to public health officials when ruling on cases such as this.
“This decision is wrong,” Whitmer said in a press release. “It misreads the law and sets a dangerous precedent of a court second-guessing the expert judgment of public health officials dealing with a crisis.”
Whitmer announced that she will seek an immediate stay and appeal to the Michigan Supreme Court, hoping for a quick decision in her favor. This would allow the ban to stay in effect until ruled on by the court. She also defended the ban as a necessary measure to protect Michigan’s children.
“The explosive increase in youth vaping is a public health emergency, and we must do everything we can to protect our kids from its harmful effects,” Whitmer wrote. “I took bold action last month to protect public health, and several states and the White House have followed Michigan’s lead because they know how urgent this is. Enough is enough. Our kids deserve leaders who will fight to protect them. That’s exactly what I’m doing today.”
Stephens explained her decision, citing the delay in announcing the ban and the negative effect she believed it would inevitably have on businesses.
“(They) undercut their own assertions of an emergency,” Stephens said in her ruling. “Despite the availability of the information, (the Department of Health and Human Services) waited for eight months before declaring an emergency.”
LSA junior Blake Richards commented on Whitmer’s emergency declaration as well as the confusion surrounding the nature of the problem.
“I wouldn’t consider whatever this is to be an emergency,” Richards said. “But at the same time, no one is truly certain of the root cause of these illnesses because of conflicting information between Michigan’s (and other states’) government and sources less motivated to carry bias.”
After Michigan’s ban was announced, six other states announced similar initiatives, including Massachusetts, whose ban faced similar legal backlash. The Trump administration also announced their intention to create a similar order.
Though the CDC warns adults against all forms of vaping, 77 percent of the recent vape-related illnesses have been connected to black market vaping products containing marijuana. There has been one reported illness in Michigan.
Director of Wolverine Wellness Mary Jo Desprez explained what THC is and how it could negatively affect e-cigarette users.
“THC is the primary psychoactive cannabinoid in cannabis,” Desprez said. “It is responsible for most of the intoxicating effects that most people seek. The current e-cigarette/vaping lung injury issues are probably a combination of not just the substance but also the methods and products used.”
Richards commented on the data surrounding THC and explained he believes the outbreak is from particular products, rather than with e-cigarettes all together.
“While I don’t mean to lessen the gravity of the illness itself, less than 1000 people in the United States diagnosed with a vaping-related illness probably implies this resulted from an isolated batch of product,” Richards said. “The powerhouses of the industry like Juul and Suorin face intense regulation from the FDA, which pointed me to a smaller, less regulated producer behind the mysterious illnesses and deaths.”
Desprez said there’s still uncertainty surrounding the recent illnesses not linked to products containing THC and discussed the risks associated with any tobacco product. She also noted that UHS has resources available for students who may be trying to decrease their use.
“Since the specific compound or ingredient causing lung injury (is) not yet known, the only way to assure that you are not at risk while the investigation continues is to consider refraining from use of all e-cigarette, or vaping, products,” Desprez said. “All tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, carry a risk. In general, e-cigarette, or vaping, products should never be used by youths, young adults or women who are pregnant.”