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Michigan's e-cigarette ban comes with harsh penalties — potentially years in prison for violators

'These interventions are, indeed, unduly harsh'

Gabby Jones/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Earlier this month, Michigan became the first state to ban flavored e-cigarettes, and according to the Detroit News, the penalties for violators are extremely harsh.

In an opinion column written by Jessie Kelley and Carrie Wade of the R Street Institute, titled, "Vape flavor ban doesn't help kids, hurts adults," the authors make the case that this presumably well-intentioned ban carries consequences that outweigh the benefits, particularly in how it punishes those found in possession of the banned products.

According to the column, a person found in possession of a single pack of e-cigarettes and pods could face years in prison, as well as fines (emphasis added):

These interventions are, indeed, unduly harsh. According to the executive order, anyone found with four or more flavored vaping products is "presumed to possess said items with the intent to sell." This is punishable by imprisonment of six months and a fine per item. Given that disposable e-cigarettes and pods are often sold in packs of four or five, the fines and years of imprisonment can easily add up.

Additionally, Michigan's criminal justice system treats 17-year-olds as adults, so that a high school student caught with too many banned e-cigarettes could end up in the prison system and with a permanent criminal record.

The article points out the documented association between youth incarceration and suicide, as well as low-education outcomes, making the point that the harshness of this ban is harmful to society as a whole.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) ordered the state Department of Health and Human Services to issue emergency rules banning "the sale of flavored nicotine vaping products in retail stores and online, and ban misleading marketing of vaping products, including the use of terms like 'clean,' 'safe,' and 'healthy' that perpetuate beliefs that these products are harmless."

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) is moving the state toward a similar ban, and President Donald Trump responded to recent reports of vaping-related lung disease by calling on the Food and Drug Administration to issue some "very strong recommendations" on the products.

A proposed plan announced by FDA acting commissioner Alex Azar would require all flavored vaping products that don't receive FDA approval to be removed from sale beginning in May.

One last thing…
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