House panel OKs ban plan for vitamin E acetate in vaping products

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

Lansing — A trio of bills that would ban Vitamin E acetate from vaping products advanced through House committee Tuesday, and the full chamber is expected to vote this week on the legislation. 

Vitamin E acetate is used as a cutting agent in marijuana vaping products. While it is usually harmless when applied topically, it can “interfere with normal lung functioning” when inhaled, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A vitamin E acetate sample.

Health officials have linked the additive to an outbreak of lung injuries throughout Michigan and the country but said there could be additional substances involved as well.

“We’ve been going through this dance all year: What is the cause of the vaping-related injuries?” said Rep. Graham Filler, the DeWitt Republican who chairs the House Judiciary Committee. “And we were able to see right away that Vitamin E acetate is one of those problems. That’s why this legislation is fast-tracked.“

The legislation in Michigan comes two months after the state’s Marijuana Regulatory Agency issued emergency rules banning vitamin E acetate as an additive and recalled vaping products that failed new testing requirements for the substance The products recalled at that time were sold to licensed businesses by caregivers who usually work solely with medical marijuana patients.

The emergency rules came less than two weeks after The Detroit News reported that marijuana industry officials and at least one former medical marijuana regulator urged Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's administration to specifically ban Vitamin E acetate.

The Marijuana Regulatory Agency had proposed amendments to the Vitamin E acetate bills that would prohibit any marijuana additive that wasn’t approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. But legislators on the House Judiciary Committee chose to keep the legislation focused on Vitamin E acetate.

“That’s going to be a really broad package, and we have to be careful,” Filler said.

There have been 65 confirmed or probable lung illnesses believed associated with vaping in Michigan as of Jan. 10, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services said. About 2,600 vaping-related illnesses linked to vitamin E acetate have been identified nationwide.

Michigan would be the fourth state to ban vitamin E acetate in vaping products, behind Colorado, Ohio and Washington, according to a Michigan House Fiscal Agency analysis of the legislation.

The bills reported to the House floor Tuesday would penalize the production or sale of marijuana, vaping product or alternative nicotine products that contain vitamin E acetate.

The legislation would treat a violation of the ban as a misdemeanor carrying a fine of up to $10,000.

State Rep. Graham Filler, R-DeWitt, speaks about legislation in September 2019.

Republican lawmakers in committee last week and Tuesday also took digs at Whitmer’s flavored vaping ban, which was done through emergency rules last fall to address vaping-related injuries and youth vaping in general but has yet to take effect because of court challenges.

The initial vaping rules were an overly broad prohibition when the root of vaping-related injuries appears to be limited to vitamin E acetate, Rep. Beau LaFave, R-Iron Mountain, indicated Tuesday.

LaFave introduced a bill in September that would attempt to stop the state health department from banning vaping products and he discussed the bill again Tuesday, but did not offer the legislation for a vote.

“The problem is we’re in court wasting taxpayer dollars suing over a flavor ban that’s illegal and does nothing to help public health,” LaFave said Tuesday.

After the meeting, Filler said the issues should be addressed separately, with a Vitamin E acetate ban taking priority for lawmakers ahead of concerns over the governor's flavored vaping ban.

“As we wrestle with the health effects of vaping, we balance it against the concept that banning everything vaping-related may be an overreach,” Filler said.