'It was only a matter of time': Mount Pleasant reacts to vaping ban


A sophomore exhales after taking in vape on Jan. 14 in his car. 

If everything goes as planned for Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, there will be no more strawberry watermelon or blueberry cheesecake clouds floating around Mount Pleasant. 

Gov. Whitmer is making Michigan the first state to ban flavored nicotine vaping products in an effort to protect Michigan kids from the "harmful effects of vaping." The decision has received mixed responses.

“My number one priority is keeping our kids safe,” the governor said. “Companies selling vaping products are using candy flavors to hook children on nicotine and misleading claims to promote the belief that these products are safe.” 

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is issuing emergency rules to ban the sale of flavored nicotine vaping products in retail stores and online per Whitmer’s request. The ban will prohibit companies from using terms like “clean,” “safe” and “healthy," which sustain beliefs their products are harmless.

The effort results from a finding by Chief Medical Executive Joneigh Khaldun, who believes youth vaping constitutes a public health emergency. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is currently investigating at least 215 cases of illnesses that may be linked to vaping.

From 2017 to 2018, e-cigarette usage spiked 78 percent among high school students and 48 percent among middle school students. In 2018, more than 3.6 million U.S. kids, including 1 in every 5 high school students were regular users. According to the Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA), these rates continue to increase. 

Mount Pleasant resident Dana Bailey, 24, discussed the ban with her 15-year-old brother, who vapes regularly. Bailey said her brother has no intention of letting the ban stop his habit and will find other avenues to refill his vaping device.

"He is going to get the bad stuff," Bailey said. "(Whitmer's) ban will force children to use improper ways of obtaining (e-juice), resulting in more cases of illnesses from toxic chemicals."

Nancy Brown, CEO of the American Heart Association, said there was an absence of robust regulation by the FDA and lack of knowledge concerning the impact of e-cigarettes on public health. However, Brown did acknowledge the recent outbreak in respiratory illnesses and its association with e-cigarettes. 

Chesterfield senior Ian Kraft shares Whitmer's belief that a ban may be the solution to keeping toxic vapor out of children's lungs.

"There really is no regulation for what can be put in juice, so companies can put in whatever harmful chemicals they want," Kraft said. 

Carol Akiyama of Shepherd is the owner of three vape stores, including Vaped Ape Vapor Shop off of South Mission Street in Mount Pleasant. The store employs 10 individuals and has a policy that only those age 18 and older can enter.

Akiyama smoked cigarettes for more than 35 years before switching to a vape device six years ago. The store owner still uses her device and other products, like nicotine toothpicks.

"I have never been hurt," Akiyama said. "There are others that have vaped longer than I have with no health issues, who are better since quitting smoking."

Akiyama said Whitmer and her colleagues are "spinning" the discussing of e-cigarettes and using fear tactics to move the masses. 

"Whitmer campaigned on fixing the roads, which are paid for in part by cigarette taxes. Well, many people have substituted cigarettes with vaping," Akiyama said. "The state needs to collect money from somewhere else to cover that expense."

Akiyama foresees the state government changing the legal age limit to 21 and raising taxes on e-cigarettes. She believes Whitmer should be more concerned with fentanyl, opioids and other substances harmful to children and young adults.

"If candy entices children, take it out of the store to prevent diabetes and obesity," Akiyama said. The store owner also alluded to sweet, fruity alcoholic beverages that may entice minors.

The industry as whole will be affected, Akiyama said, but could still survive by selling do-it-yourself ingredients and tools, devices, tobacco products and nicotine flavored e-juices.

"I would be in support of Michigan writing stricter regulations, but don't take advantage of us consumers," Akiyama said.

Once filed, the ban will last six months, Whitmer's spokesperson said. Michigan businesses will be given 30 days to comply with the regulations.