LANSING — State Rep. Henry Yanez (D-Sterling Heights) introduced a bill package today that would regulate electronic smoking devices — also known as e-cigarettes — as tobacco, ban their sale to minors, raise money for state programs including Healthy Michigan and the School Aid Fund, and codify into Michigan law the federal Food and Drug Administration rules that took effect late last year.
“It is unconscionable that for the last few years, Michigan has been the only state that does not ban the sale of e-cigarettes to minors under the age of 18, and my package of bills will codify into law the federal Food and Drug Administration rules banning their sale to minors,” said Yanez. “The proliferation of the use of electronic smoking devices is creating a major public health issue. It’s time that we take serious steps to educate the public about the dangers of these devices, and regulate them as the tobacco products.”
The Yanez e-cigarette legislative package would:
- Expand the definition of “tobacco products,” to include electronic smoking devices
- Require identification upon delivery of tobacco products sold online that the recipient is at least 18 years old
- Increase the tax on cigarettes by $1.50/pack or 75 mills per cigarette and distribute the revenue increase as follows:
- 10 percent to the Healthy Michigan program for cancer prevention, tobacco prevention and cardiovascular health
- 90 percent to the state’s General Fund
- Increase the tax on other tobacco products to 81 percent of the wholesale price to create tax parity with cigarettes and distribute that revenue as follows:
- 75.6 percent to the School Aid Fund
- 18.4 percent to the General Fund
- 6 percent to the Healthy Michigan Fund to be used for cancer prevention, tobacco prevention and cardiovascular health
- Prohibit the sale of electronic smoking devices to minors (FDA rule)
- Require that electronic smoking devices and e-liquids comply with child-resistant packaging in compliance with current law (FDA rule)
- Increase penalties on individuals who illegally sell electronic smoking devices and tobacco products to minors
- Prohibit retailers and vendors from selling e-cigarettes through vending machines in all ages venues (FDA rule)
The FDA rules are currently being challenged in court. Michigan still needs to act, however, to protect kids and to amend state law on these products for regulatory and tax purposes.
E-cigarettes use a liquid — called e-liquid — that is generally composed of propylene glycol, glycerin, water, nicotine and some kind of flavor. People who use these devices instead of cigarettes are still at risk because nicotine contributes to cardiovascular diseases, which can lead to heart attack and stroke. Heart disease is the number one killer in Michigan with stroke not far behind at number four. Flavorings, when inhaled, specifically those that contain diacetyl, even if they contain zero nicotine, contribute to serious respiratory distress and to what has been commonly referred to as “Popcorn Lung Disease, which can be fatal.” It is estimated that annual health care expenditures in Michigan directly linked to tobacco use are $4.59 billion. Taxing these products and directing that revenue to state health programs, the school aid fund and the general fund, as Yanez’s legislation would do, would raise money for the health care services that e-cigarette smokers may need, and for programs to educate kids on the dangers of e-cigarettes and regular cigarettes.
“A recent study highlighted in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that among 14-year-olds surveyed who said they had smoked e-cigarettes, 22 percent were more likely to smoke cigarettes the following year,” said Yanez. “Most recent figures show a 900% increase in usage amongst high school age students from 2011 to 2015. E-cigarettes aren’t the benign products their manufacturers would have us believe. Using e-cigarettes carries its own risks and growing amounts of evidence suggest using is a gateway to smoking cigarettes. It’s time to treat e-cigarettes as tobacco products.”