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Lansing — The Michigan Senate set up another potential veto challenge for Gov. Rick Snyder by unanimously approving bills banning electronic cigarette sales to minors but not meeting his desire to have them regulated as tobacco products.

Snyder vetoed similar legislation in January because he said so-called e-cigarettes should be treated like tobacco products and subject to the state tobacco tax. It also would conflict with federal efforts to regulate the devices, he argued.

“Electronic cigarettes are nicotine-delivery devices that resemble traditional tobacco cigarettes and share a common ingredient, which is the highly addictive chemical nicotine that is derived from tobacco,” Snyder wrote in his January veto letter to legislators.

The Republican governor does support the teen ban. Michigan is among seven states where minors now can legally purchase e-vapor products, according to the legislation’s advocates.

But Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, the chief legislative sponsor, said there’s no reason for such regulations or taxes and Snyder should reconsider his position.

“We will soon be the only state that allows stores to sell electronic cigarettes to minors,” Jones said. “This has got to stop. We don’t want kids to get addicted to nicotine.”

Jones said it may be time for lawmakers to rustle up the votes to override Snyder if he vetoes the current legislation if it reaches his desk.

“I don’t believe children should be able to buy this in gas stations and grocery stores,” he said.

The new-age smoking devices use water vapor, not smoke, and haven’t been found harmful by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the senator said.

Jones argued the devices are similar to nicotine patches, used by people trying to quit smoking, and should be OK for adults to use in any setting. Treating them as tobacco, he said, “means the local pub won’t be able to allow people to vape.”

The legislation passed on 37-0 Senate votes and now goes to the House for consideration. Stores also could not sell e-cigarettes to minors under the legislative package.

Michigan has the 10th highest tobacco tax in the nation, $2 on a pack of cigarettes or $20 per carton. The state collects a 32 percent tax on cigars and other noncigarette tobacco products.

The Michigan State Medical Society also has opposed the legislation by arguing it would weaken existing tobacco regulations by carving out exemptions for e-cigarettes and undermine the state’s fight against smoking and tobacco-related diseases.

Jones-sponsored legislation banning a new powdered form of alcohol in Michigan also won Senate approval. He said he’s concerned it could be used by minors to avert state alcohol laws and by adults to spike drinks and make them even higher in alcohol content.

GHeinlein@detroitnews.com

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