Michigan Judge Blocks Flavored Vape Ban

(WWJ) Michigan judge has issued an injunction that blocks the state's ban on flavored e-cigarette products, saying it harms adults. 

Court of Claims Judge Cynthia Stephens earlier Tuesday granted a preliminary injunction to vape shop owners who opposed Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s emergency rules banning the sale and advertising of vape products that taste like fruit, candy, menthol or mint. 

"The court of claims judge says the governor got it wrong," WWJ Lansing Bureau Chief Tim Skubick reported. "She slapped a hold on this ban, basically allowing this case to go forward brought by one of the vendors who said he was discriminated against." 

Explaining her decision, Stephens said there is evidence that prohibition will cause adults in Michigan to return to using more harmful tobacco products.

"The judge said there are compelling reasons," Skubick said, "so the governor has a major setback in trying to ban these products for young people. The problem was, the ban also included adults." 

Whitmer announced the flavored vape ban in early September, stating that flavored products target children and teens. When it took effect Oct. 1, many vape shop owners complained they'd be put out of business.

At The Vapor Shoppe on Woodward Ave. in Ferndale, flavored vape juice was already back on the shelves Tuesday afternoon. 

Owner Joe Kasmikha was restocking as he spoke with WWJ's Jon Hewett, after conferring with his attorney. "They could still say tomorrow, 'Nope! Bring it right back down.' But as of right now, I guess it's lifted," Kasmikha said. 

Whitmer, meanwhile, said she will ask the state Supreme Court to take on the case. 

“This decision is wrong. It misreads the law and sets a dangerous precedent of a court second-guessing the expert judgment of public health officials dealing with a crisis,” said the governor, in a statement. 

“The explosive increase in youth vaping is a public health emergency, and we must do everything we can to protect our kids from its harmful effects. I plan to seek an immediate stay and go directly to the Supreme Court to request a quick and final ruling. I took bold action last month to protect public health, and several states and the White House have followed Michigan’s lead because they know how urgent this is. Enough is enough. Our kids deserve leaders who will fight to protect them. That’s exactly what I’m doing today.”

Nationwide, nicotine e-cigarette use among middle and high school students increased 900% from 2011-2015, according to stats released by the governor's office. In 2018, surveys showed more than 3.6 million U.S. kids were regular users. 

Attorney Kevin Blair, who represents two vape shops who sued the state, said his clients do not sell to kids. 

"I think that their statistics were some 60-70% of their customers are over 35," he told WWJ's Sandra McNeill. "And Mr. (Marc) Slis testified that he cards everybody at the door who looks less than 30 years old."

Debate over the ban comes as, amid a rash of lung illnesses and deaths, state and federal health officials are urging people of all ages to avoid using any type of vape or e-cigarette products. According to the CDC, more than 1,000  people have been sicked and 29 people have after vaping this year. 

However, many of those cases have been linked to vaping THC, rather than nicotine products covered by Michigan ban.