Editorial: Why target vaping, and not sweet booze and pot candy?

The Detroit News

It's curious that in a state that just voted to allow the sale of marijuana-laced cookies, candy and soda pop, and where alcoholic drinks sit on store shelves in flavors that would make Kool-Aid jealous, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is exercising extraordinary executive powers to ban flavored vaping products.

The governor announced the ban after her health department director declared youth vaping as a public emergency, citing a sharp spike in teen vaping and six cases of lung infections in Michigan suspected of being tied to e-cigarettes. None of the cases involve minors.

In this Friday, Jan. 18, 2019 file photo, a customer blows a cloud of smoke from a vape pipe at a local shop in Richmond, Va.

There's no doubt that using these cigarette substitutes is not a healthy choice for teens, or for anyone else for that matter. While the e-cigarettes don't contain the carcinogens of tobacco, they are rich in highly addictive nicotine. And some studies suggest that they can cause lung damage.

So the governor is right, kids shouldn't be vaping.

That's why lawmakers passed a measure earlier this year making it illegal for minors to vape, and outlawing the sale of vaping paraphernalia to those under age 18.  

Since it's already illegal for minors to purchase vaping products, Whitmer's ban primarily impacts adult users, and the small businesses that sell to them.

Her rationale is that as long as the products are available to anyone in the state, they could end up in the hands of children.

That same case can be made for alcohol, tobacco and the newly legal recreational pot. All can be tied to health ills far more extensive and more urgent than those caused by vaping. And all offer merchandise that children may find appealing. 

Does the governor assume the same authority to unilaterally ban the popular hard ciders and fruit flavored spritzers, or THC-infused gummy candies, to protect children?

If youth vaping is a health emergency, then surely youth smoking, drinking and pot use have to be declared crises as well.

Whitmer's ban on flavored e-cigarettes lasts six months, and can be extended another six months before it must go to the Legislature for approval.

That's where it should have started. The Legislature exists for a reason. Its job is to debate these sort of policies and weigh the consequences.

Had Whitmer taken a ban proposal to lawmakers, she may have found bipartisan support for passage, and more solid ground for this first-in-the-nation prohibition.