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On behalf of more than 3,700 family physicians, family medicine residents and students who collectively care for millions of patients statewide, the Michigan Academy of Family Physicians would like to praise Gov. Rick Snyder on the vetoes of Senate Bills 667-668 and House Bill 4997.

The bills, which sought to address the regulation and classification of electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes), won approval in the Michigan legislature last year. Unfortunately, the bills fail to regulate e-cigarettes as tobacco products and, as a result, put the health and safety of the people of Michigan at risk.

Electronic cigarettes, which are unregulated, battery-operated devices with nicotine-filled cartridges, originally emerged as a smoking cessation device. Yet despite some anecdotal accounts that tout the benefits of e-cigarettes in curbing smoking habits, the clinical evidence to support these claims has thus far been inadequate, and the safety of these devices has not been clearly established.

It is also clear that the associated industry is developing flavors and products to target youth. The products are being modernized to maximize rapid nicotine absorption into the blood stream, a well know factor that augments addiction.

Because these bills, as currently structured, exclude e-cigarettes from the definition of tobacco products, they could open the door for vending machine sales, consumption in the workplace, restaurants and other public spaces and end marketing restrictions. We know that youth still gain access to tobacco products in spite of current law. If we expand access, the more likely they will be to consume. By defining e-cigarettes as tobacco products, we can avoid these broader opportunities for consumption.

What is particularly bewildering about this debate is that the bills fly in the face of decades of successful public health efforts stemmed at raising awareness around the dangers of smoking and nicotine addiction. When we have countless other public health threats to contend with in Michigan, why are we once again fighting this battle?

It is the position of the academy that e-cigarettes be regulated like tobacco products, and the marketing and advertising of e-cigarettes, especially to children and youth, should cease immediately. Until there is more extensive research of e-cigarettes to assess their safety, quality, and efficacy as a potential cessation device, our members will continue to speak out against them.

The last thing we want is another generation of individuals addicted to nicotine.

Dr. Fred J. Van Alstine, chairman, Michigan Academy of Family Physicians Board of Directors

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