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Michigan ban on flavored vaping products starts Wednesday


Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s ban on flavored e-cigarettes starts Wednesday after a judge said she’s not ready to decide whether to stop it.

Michigan Court of Claims Judge Cynthia Stephens heard arguments Tuesday about an injunction sought by Houghton tobacco vape retailer 906 Vapor LLC and its owner Marc Slis. The attorney general’s office said the hearing will continue Oct. 8.

The lawsuit claims Whitmer’s office lacked the legal authority to enact the emergency rule, which bans the retail sale and possession with intent to sell by a retailer of flavored-vape products for 180 days.

A separate but related lawsuit is pending in federal court in western Michigan. Mister E-Liquid, a Grand Rapids company that makes liquids used in e-cigarettes, filed suit arguing the ban violates the U.S. Constitution’s commerce clause.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced the ban on flavored e-cigarettes Sept. 4 to combat growing health concerns, including deaths and hospitalizations around the country linked to vaping. Federal health officials say most of those incidents revolve around black-market marijuana vape products.

“For too long, companies have gotten our kids hooked on nicotine by marketing candy-flavored vaping products as safe,” Whitmer said in a statement last month. “That ends today. This bold action will protect our kids and our overall public health.”

Under the rules, selling a flavored vape product, excluding tobacco flavor, could result in a misdemeanor charge, punishable by a $200 fine and up to six months in jail. While the ban is only effective for 180 days, it can be extended another six months under the emergency rules.

“Today is the day that a lot of (vape business owners) are packing trucks to move their product out of the state,” said Andrea Bitely, spokeswoman for the Defend MI Rights Coalition, a group of around 12 actors against the ban in Michigan, including affected businesses and associations. “There are approximately 700 vape stores in the state … Each of them is, right now, figuring out what is next for them.”

Plans vary, from businesses facing closure to those partnering with vape enterprises in neighboring states to offload their products, Bitely said. The coalition has said the ban would effectively close hundreds of businesses.

Joost Vapor, a vaping liquid manufacturer and retailer with corporate offices in Wyoming, Mich.,packed up two 26-foot trucks to transport between $2 million and $3 million of its products out of Michigan before the ban takes effect, Michael Ames, chief administrative and compliance officer, said in an email.

“We have a partner in the Chicago area that is willing to hold our product for resale out of the state so we may comply with the emergency rules,” Ames said in the email. “Rather than risk the criminal penalties, we have found this is the only viable option for us within the timeline granted.”

Joost Vapor employs 100 people across around 17 locations. As of now, the company expects to close five locations and reduce its manufacturing, cutting 20-30 employees. Asked about future plans and whether Joost will close, Ames said in the email that “long term outlook at this current time does not look viable.”

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