E-cigarettes spur debate

LANSING (AP) – Banning the sale of electronic cigarettes to kids may seem like a no-brainer, yet Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration and a number of health advocacy groups oppose legislation that does just that. They say it doesn’t go far enough.

Players on both sides of the state’s e-cigarette debate agree that the nicotine-dispensing devices should be kept away from minors, but opinions differ when it comes to regulating the relatively unstudied vaporizers.

Tobacco companies support two bipartisan Senate bills prohibiting the sale and use of e-cigarettes and other devices that deliver nicotine if the buyer is younger than 18 years old. Sen. Glenn Anderson, D-Westland, said he is sponsoring the legislation because it’s “outrageous” that a minor can legally buy and use a highly addictive product. The bills unanimously passed the Senate Thursday.

But Snyder’s administration and health advocates say the bills would give e-cigarettes a “special status” and protect them from standard tobacco regulations. They want e-cigarettes to be treated like traditional cigarettes, not only in regards to minors, but taxes and public use laws as well. Such regulations would ban e-cigarette use in workplaces or restaurants, a restriction that’s currently left up to individual businesses.

“The appropriate thing to do in Michigan now is to act to help protect the population against the potential health risks of e-cigarettes, about which we know very little,” said Dr. Matthew Davis, chief medical executive for the Community Health Department.

Electronic cigarettes are cylindrical battery-powered devices that heat a liquid to produce vapor. While the liquid often includes nicotine, which can be derived from tobacco, e-cigarettes have not been officially designated as tobacco products. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulates cigarettes and smokeless tobacco and has said it intends to propose changes to its authority to regulate e-cigarettes, too.

Twenty-seven states ban the sale of e-cigarettes to minors, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Most of those state laws are similar to the Senate legislation.