Earlier this month, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer made the announcement that Michigan will be the first state to ban flavored e-cigarettes, a decision she said will “keep our kids safe and protect the health of the people of Michigan.” What Whitmer fails to realize, however, is the dangerously adverse effects that are bound to arise from this unnecessary and meddlesome ban on what has become a life-saving product for many Americans. 

Vaping has helped countless smokers regain control of their lives, but the newly enacted flavor ban puts all that progress in jeopardy. Though the ban may be well-intentioned, it will no doubt lead to greater harm for former smokers, as well as lead to an unchecked black market of counterfeit products that will put all Americans, both adults and children, at risk.

So why are Michigan regulators interfering with what has proven to be the most useful tool in helping people quit smoking?

While supporters of this legislation claim it is in the best interest of children, we’ve seen this play out before. This type of over-regulation always leads to unintended consequences that move our country 10 dangerous steps backward, and never bring us forward.

These consequences are already unfolding; we’ve seen Americans fall victim to the e-cigarette black market. Just recently, a man in Illinois died from a lung illness caused by vaping a counterfeit product. The gap in the marketplace that has been created by flavor bans is being filled with dangerous makeshift products. How many people have to die before we see that the problem is unnecessary government interference?

By limiting options and availability of vaping products, we are creating a vulnerable situation for a black market to emerge. We see it happen all the time. When a hole in the market forms, people, including children, will still find a way to get what they want or need, and dangerous counterfeit projects enter the scene.

With the flavor ban, these children will not be getting their hands on professionally curated products, but instead will be driven to the dangerous trap of products that may kill or seriously harm them. 

One of the most frustrating parts of the whole situation is the clear crony capitalistic policies that are at play with the FDA, Juul and Altria. In response to our state’s all-flavor ban, Juul released a statement that they “support an outright ban on such flavors, including those that mimic kid-specific candies, foods, and drinks.” If Juul is so concerned about youth access to flavored e-cigarettes, why then are they still selling these flavors just across the Ambassador Bridge in Canada?

And the inane justification that flavored e-cigarettes are only for teens makes no sense. The reality is, many grown adults gravitate towards and lean on flavors like watermelon or crème brulee to kick their smoking habits. Taking that away will only drive them back to cancer-causing combustible cigarettes.

It’s clear that vaping is a lifesaver for so many Americans. Whitmer’s decision is another classic example of crony capitalism and manipulation that only serves those in power, while ignoring the many Americans who will suffer — including those she claims she is trying to help.  

We all want to keep our children safe and healthy, and that should always be our number-one goal. But this ban will lead to many unintended consequences that will put children, former smokers and our country even more in harm’s way, and it’s time we put a stop to it. 

Amelia Hamilton is an author and public policy commentator from Traverse City.

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