Less than two weeks after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer declared a public health emergency and banned the sale of flavored vaping juice, a Michigan Court of Claims judge blocked the legislation.
Whitmer was quite disappointed with the injunction.
“This decision is wrong,” Whitmer stated in a press release. “It misreads the law and sets a dangerous precedent of a court second-guessing the expert judgement of public health officials dealing with a crisis.”
The court ruling will not prevent Whitmer from continuing to pursue this matter further.
“I plan to seek an immediate stay and go directly to the Supreme Court to request a quick and final ruling,” Whitmer said.
The ban lasted from Oct. 2 -15. The 13 days in between were tough for vape enthusiasts and sellers. The ban significantly impacted sales for Uptown Vape Shoppe, located on Wealthy St.
“It was difficult,” vape shop employee Nate Stevens said. “We were getting by but there was a noticeable – I’d say, at least, one third – drop in sales. And that was with us bringing new product in and trying to find ways to get around the ban and such.”
One of the “perfectly legal” workarounds the vape shop did was offer a flavorless base liquid containing nicotine and a separate container of flavoring that customers could then combine and mimic the original flavored vaping juice. However, Stevens noted that it wasn’t the same as the “real thing.”
Judge Cynthia Stevens’ ruling to block the emergency ban was a relief for vape shop employees.
“We saw an immediate spike in sales,” Stevens said.
Scott Jewell, the shop owner, is also puzzled by how things shook out.
Jewell notes that there are numerous different flavors of vodka that are “marketed to kids.” Stating that if they are going to ban flavored vaping juice in an effort to eliminate it’s allure to teens, it’s only fair that other markets are affected as well.
“If they’re going to do it to one industry, they should do it to all of the industries,” Jewell said.
However, Jewell does acknowledge that youth vaping is problematic.
“It does concern me,” Jewell said. “That’s why we’re really strict about carding people and not selling to minors.”
According to Whitmer’s press release, there has been a 900 percent increase in nicotine e-cigarette consumption amongst middle and high school students between 2011 and 2015. This increase, according to the release, can be attributed to delectable flavors of vaping juice which entice young consumers. Although, Stevens does not agree with the findings of Whitmer’s Chief Medical Executive, Dr. Joneigh Khaldun.
“This isn’t a nicotine vaping issue,” Stevens stated. “This is an illegal THC cartridge issue.”
Stevens suggested a better approach to combating underaged youth vaping may be by increasing the legal age to purchase such products from 18 to 21.
“The bigger the age gap becomes, the easier it is to enforce and the less likely it is to trickle down to those kids,” Stevens said. “Change the legal age for tobacco use to 21. That would cover the whole base right there.”
Jewell and his employees say they are in the vaping sales industry because they believe that vaping can help wean people off of cigarettes. “What we want the most is to help people,” said Blaine Dolinger, an Uptown Vape Shoppe employee.
Stevens and Jewell believe that they are helping people suppress their cigarette addiction by offering a “safer way to distribute nicotine.
“I think as far as vice’s go,” Stevens said, “vaping is one of the less dangerous ones. I think that what science we do have is pretty clear on that.”
Stevens believes Whitmer’s decision to enforce the ban was politically motivated.
“It’s becoming a less stable political ground, but not the kind of issue you can back down on once you’ve chosen a stance like that,” Stevens added. “I think she has caught herself in a rather untenable situation. What seemed like a safe political play has turned out to be anything but.”
Jewell and his staff will continue to sell flavored vaping products. That is, at least until the next court ruling.