Michigan Senate approves bills to tax vaping products, allow flavored vaping
Lansing — The Michigan Senate approved a six-bill package Wednesday that would impose an 18% tax on the liquid nicotine solution used in electronic cigarettes and would specifically allow individuals to sell flavored vaping products.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, attempted last year to make Michigan the first state in the nation with a ban on flavored vaping products out of concern for youth usage. But the courts eventually paused the ban after businesses filed a legal challenge.
The new legislative package, which gained the backing of the Republican-controlled Senate, would set up an enforcement and licensing system for shops that sell vaping products.
It would also change the age requirement for buying tobacco and vaping products from 18 years old to 21 in state law. President Donald Trump previously instituted a federal change to increase the age to 21 across the country.
"It's regulated. It's enforced," Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich, D-Flint, said about the bills, which he said would give adults the "choice one way or another" whether to use the products.
Ananich was one of the sponsors of bills in the package. He said it aimed to resolve a lack of clarity surrounding federal and state policy on vaping in Michigan. The legislation, which doesn't affect marijuana vaping products, originally aimed to set the tax rate at 24% but lawmakers dropped the proposed rate to 18% before Wednesday's vote.
The Senate Fiscal Agency estimated the original proposal would increase General Fund revenue about $15 million per year, a number that could change based on how the legislation is interpreted. No estimate on the 18% proposal was available Wednesday.
Right now, the tax system for vaping productions is a "gray area," said Ananich, who added that lawmakers have been working with industry members on the proposals. Negotiations on the legislation aren't finished as they move to the Michigan House for further consideration, he said.
The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network opposes the package.
"We cannot leave Michigan’s kids vulnerable to the tobacco industry, which aims to hook Michigan children into a lifetime of addiction to tobacco," said Andrew Schepers, director of government relations in Michigan for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network.
The closest vote Wednesday came on the bill that specifically allows the sale of flavored vaping products. It also bans businesses promoting vaping products by comparing "the health effects that arise from the use of vapor products with the health effects that arise from the use of tobacco products."
The bill passed 24-14 with two Democrats — Ananich and Sen. Curtis Hertel of East Lansing — joining Republicans in support.
Ananich said he wants to try to resolve any concerns the governor's office has about the bill.
The bill that sets the tax rate at 18% of the wholesale price passed 33-5 with four Republicans and one Democrat, Sen. Jeff Irwin of Ann Arbor, in opposition.
Another bill said a sales clerk who knowingly sells a tobacco product to a minor or who fails "to make diligent inquiry as to whether the individual is a minor" can be ordered to pay a fine of no more than $250. It also allows the state to conduct "unannounced compliance checks." It passed 38-0.