July 7, 2014 at 1:00 am

PUBLIC HEALTH IN MICHIGAN

E-cigs legislation needs work

Haines (Courtesy: Michigan Legislature)

I strongly urge Gov. Rick Snyder to veto legislation passed by the Michigan House of Representatives that addresses the sale of e-cigarettes to minors.

As chair of the House Health Policy Committee, you might ask why I would take a stand against legislation to prevent minors from purchasing e-cigarettes. I do it because Senate Bill 668 is not good public policy and does not fully address the important issues surrounding e-cigarettes. Legislation regarding health policy should protect citizens, not support addiction to harmful substances like nicotine.

Unfortunately, the messaging being used by the e-cigarette industry is that government wants to raise revenue by taxing the devices as we tax a pack of cigarettes. But taxes are not the issue. This half-way legislation is supposed to allow “the federal government time to decide the direction they want to go” in regulating the use of e-cigarettes. The question is: Do we want to wait for feds to decide their direction while Michigan youth are becoming addicted to nicotine by use of e-cigarettes with flavors such as gummy bears, cheesecake, and cotton candy?

The truth is that e-cigarettes contain nicotine. We have seen the hazards and paid for the health hazards of nicotine addiction for years. After everything medical science has taught us about the evils of nicotine addition, do we want to create a new generation of young Michiganians who are addicted to this drug? Has conclusive scientific data regarding the harmful aspects of nicotine taught us nothing?

Proponents of e-cigarettes argue that they reduce smoking with some adults. The Journal of the American Academy of Otolarynology specifically concludes that data on the use of e-cigarettes for quitting smoking are ultimately inconclusive and that these devices are unregulated and uncertain in smoking cessation (June 2014). Proponents also say that “we don’t regulate nicotine patches.” While nicotine patches do have benefits for smoking cessation, they don’t come in fruit or candy flavors. What is the possible benefit of a fruity nicotine product other than to get a new generation hooked on nicotine? The marketing of e-cigarettes appears to target the younger generation.

What do we know for certain about e-cigarettes? Common sense tells us that e-cigarettes should not be sold to minors, but sound public policy should go beyond simply regulating the sales of the product to minors. Common sense tells us that, like e-cigarettes’ first cousin, the tobacco cigarette, e-cigarettes contain nicotine and should be treated no differently.

I respect the fact that director of the Department of Community Health, James Haveman, gets it, and I am sure that Gov. Snyder will too.

Please, Gov. Snyder, veto this bad half-way legislation. Allow us to pass legislation with the health of our citizens in mind, not tobacco profits.

State Rep. Gail Haines, R-Waterford, represents Michigan’s 43rd District, and chairs the House Health Policy Committee.

Haines (Courtesy: Michigan Legislature)