Michigan's top doctor is calling on state lawmakers to classify e-cigarettes as tobacco products. Legislation currently in the Senate would make it a crime to sell the devices to minors. But Dr. Matthew Davis, Chief Medical Executive with the Michigan Department of Community Health says the bi-partisan package of bills doesn't go far enough.
E-cigarettes are electronic devices that heat up liquid and allow the user to inhale a vapor. Davis says, “What we're seeing is that kids are trying these in higher and higher numbers and many parents are concerned. We know this from national research, that their kids may get addicted to nicotine and end up using traditional cigarettes down the road." Republican Senator Rick Jones of Grand Ledge agrees. “We have a problem in this state. Any 10 year-old can go in and buy electronic cigarettes. Some are flavored like root beer, orange, even cheesecake. and children are getting addicted to nicotine."
Jones has sponsored Senate Bills 667 & 668. The legislation would make it immediately illegal for retailers to sell e-cigarettes to minors. But Davis says, that isn’t good enough. He wants lawmakers to protect everyone from the dangers of e-cigarettes by taxing them, and banning them from restaurants, bars and other public places. Davis says, “After all, liquid in e-cigarettes is extracted from tobacco and so therefore, they are essentially tobacco products . And certainly tobacco-derived products, it would make sense to use the existing regulations that we have about tobacco products and classify e-cigarettes under that existing regulation." Jones says, he’s more concerned about limiting access to children. “I understand that they want the moon, and they want to be able to tax these devices just like cigarettes but that will have to wait for an FDA decision. Anything the federal government does will override Michigan law so there is no problem."
While retailers can sell e-cigarettes to anyone, many say they treat them just like cigarettes and don't sell to minors. Many restaurants also ban the devices. The legislation is now in a Senate committee.