Michigan lawmakers voted Tuesday to ban minors from using electronic cigarettes, hoping new Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is more receptive than her predecessor, who vetoed the legislation because it would have kept the products from being regulated like tobacco.
Two bills were approved unanimously by the Republican-led Senate and sent to the GOP-controlled House, which is considering a similar measure.
Though the Democratic governor’s office said it needed to review the legislation , the state Department of Health and Human Services — a part of her administration — reiterated its opposition, saying the bills would directly conflict with federal regulations.
“Vapor products and alternative nicotine products would not be subject to Michigan’s smoke-free air laws, simply because they are not defined as a tobacco product,” said spokeswoman Lynn Sutfin. She said 18-year-old students could legally “vape” in class, and the products also could be used in restaurants, bars, concert halls and other places where smoking is off limits.
Former Republican Gov. Rick Snyder vetoed similar bills in 2015, saying he supported a teen e-cigarette ban but had concerns with excluding alternative nicotine products from the definition of tobacco.
A sponsor of one of the new bills, Republican Sen. Rick Outman of Six Lakes, said Whitmer, a former legislator, voted for bills that Snyder vetoed.
“We want to keep it out of the hands of kids, and this legislation does that,” he said, saying e-cigarettes do not burn tobacco. “I don’t care if they put marijuana in it. I don’t care if they put bubble gum in it. I don’t want them to have access to these devices.”
The federal government already prohibits the sale of e-cigarettes to minors. But Michigan was among just two states without its own restrictions as of December, according to the Public Health Law Center in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Under the legislation, people who sell tobacco, vapor or alternative nicotine products to minors would face larger misdemeanor fines ranging between $100 for a first offense and $2,500 for a third or subsequent offense.
Minors would receive a civil infraction for their first or second offense, with a maximum $50 fine.
Whitmer spokeswoman Tiffany Brown declined to comment on the specifics of the Senate-passed bills.
“If we want to keep Michiganders healthy and lower tobacco-related deaths in Michigan, the governor supports raising the state’s tobacco purchase age from 18 to 21,” she said in a statement. “Further, she believes that we need a meaningful solution that keeps vaping products and e-cigarettes out of the hands of youth.”
Senate Bills 106 and 155: http://bit.ly/2ISbt2G