Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer and the state’s Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) have abandoned their plan to pass a permanent rule prohibiting the sale of flavored vaping products—for now, anyway.
The news was a surprise, and came the day before a scheduled meeting of the Michigan legislature’s committee that approves rules proposed by executive agencies. MDHHS last month sent the final rule to the Michigan state legislature’s Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR) for approval. The meeting was cancelled after the rule was withdrawn.
The health agency has worked for a year creating the final rule, after holding a hearing and accepting public comments on the proposed rule last fall. It was promoted heavily by tobacco control and public health groups, led by Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids’ regional director Jodi Radke.
The agency may have withdrawn the rule after realizing some members of the JCAR would oppose its passage. The process of approving a rule can be slow-walked if enough JCAR members oppose it, and the governor and her health agency might have considered it not worth the trouble to get into another endless battle with the Republican-controlled legislature.
However, the flavor ban could still be reintroduced through JCAR, or it could be introduced in a bill by a member of the state house or senate. Meanwhile, the Whitmer administration seems ready to support a package of six bills in the legislature that would impose taxes and mandate that only FDA-authorized vape products can be sold.
“MDHHS is working with our legislative partners to protect youth from the addiction that can result from flavored nicotine vaping products,” an MDHHS spokesman told Metro Times. “Because of progress on a legislative solution, MDHHS has pulled back the rules that were to be considered by the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules.”
CASAA has had a call to action for these bills since mid-summer, urging Michigan vapers to oppose the tax and other restrictions. The six bills are tied together; one cannot pass without the others. It’s not known if additional legislation specifically prohibiting flavors will be introduced, but the restriction on products not specifically endorsed by the FDA would have almost the same effect.