Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s administration has declared a public health emergency in Michigan and is taking action to stop kids from vaping.
The state’s Chief Medical Officer is making the official declaration of the health emergency. Governor Whitmer is issuing emergency rules under the auspices of that action.
She is issuing orders that would ban all flavored vaping products from the state and she’s ordering the Michigan Department of Transportation to ban advertising from highway billboards.
Whitmer is the first governor in the nation to make these orders and take these actions.
“We see this constantly: bombarding kids with this as a healthy option; getting kids hooked on nicotine before their brains are fully formed,” Whitmer told 6 News Capitol Correspondent Tim Skubick in an exclusive interview. “And now we’re seeing kids showing up with respiratory problems.”
Whitmer says she’s taking action to protect the state’s kids because the companies that make vaping products are targeting them.
“Flavoring is the hook. That’s how they market to children,” she said, citing vaping products that taste like apples, bubble gum, and the cereal Froot Loops.
She also says the issue hits home for her, citing her own teenage daughters.
“I know that a lot of their friends are vaping,” she said. “This is deceptive, this is destructive, and most importantly, it’s compromising our kids’ health. We know that this is a national health crisis and it’s time for us to take action.”
Whitmer, who has already signed a teen vaping ban into law, says she plans to take her ideas to the Michigan Legislature for their approval. But she says she decided to declare an emergency and take action because the state can’t wait. She says the number of kids who vape grew 900% between 2011 and 2015.
“This is a health crisis, and in health crises, I have ability to take action and we’re taking it,” she said.
Whitmer says the move has been vetted with her own lawyers and the Michigan Attorney General’s office, as well as industry and public health experts. She says she doesn’t fear potential lawsuits.
“Bring it on,” she said. “This is squarely within our powers.”
And Whitmer says the fact that she’s the first governor to take such actions doesn’t bother her, either.
“It’s time to be a leader,” she said. “It’s time for Michigan to show that we’re bold, that we protect our kids., and we’re gonna lead the nation and I think you’re going to find other states follow.”
While the move is meant to stop kids from vaping, the ban on flavored vaping products would prevent anyone in Michigan from getting them.
Whitmer says the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services will work with traditional tobacco enforcement officials to make sure the ban goes into effect.
Stay tuned to 6 News as we continue to cover this story and get reaction from e-cigarette makers, users, and health officials.