Michigan judge blocks state's ban on flavored e-cigarette

A Michigan judge has just blocked the state's flavored e-cigarette ban.

The injunction was issued by a Michigan Court of Claims judge following a lawsuit filed by a business owner who sells vape products.

Gov. Whitmer's ban on vaping products went into effect on Sept. 18, following reports from the state health department of rising rates of teen vaping. Following that date, businesses had 14 days to comply with the ban, or they would be subject to potential jailing and a $200 fine.

However, in response to the ban, Marc Slis, the owner of 906 Vapor in Houghton, Michigan, filed a lawsuit on Sept. 27 to stop the state from enforcing the ban. Judge Cynthia Stephens issued the preliminary injunction, saying that Whitmer's delay in implementing the ban undercut its position that emergency rules were needed.

In a statement issued shortly after the ruling, Whitmer said she planned on seeking a Supreme Court ruling.

"This decision is wrong. It misreads the law and sets a dangerous precedent of a court second-guessing the expert judgment of public health officials dealing with a crisis," she said. "The explosive increase in youth vaping is a public health emergency, and we must do everything we can to protect our kids from its harmful effects."

"I plan to seek an immediate stay and go directly to the Supreme Court to request a quick and final ruling." 

While business owners whose revenue relies on sales of vaping and vape-related products were concerned what the ban would do to business, the state determined rising rates among teens now vaping to be a public health emergency. In a news release, they cited a 900 percent increase in middle and high school students vaping from 2011 to 2015. Last year, more than 3.6 million kids reported being regular users of vaping products. 

However, Stephens also said there is evidence that if flavored vaping products are prohibited, adults will return to using more harmful tobacco products. At least one business owner FOX 2 talked to said he had lost thousands in revenue since the ban took effect.

"We had to take the stuff off the shelf, so that's thousands of sales," said one business owner.

Michigan was the first state to implement a ban on vaping products. Since then, New York, Rhode Island, and the federal government have also enforced their own bans. Concerns regarding vaping have exponentially increased following reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that more than 800 individuals had been hospitalized with lung-related illnesses. More than a dozen people have also died from vaping.

RELATED STORY: Michigan’s flavored vaping ban is “shortsighted,” could harm more people than help, public health officials say

However, the remains a lot of ambiguity among the causes of those deaths. Some researchers have pointed to adulterated THC products as the cause. This has led a collection of public health officials calling the ban "shortsighted" and would push teens who were vaping to either begin smoking cigarettes or purchase vape products from unregulated markets.

Some researchers have gone as far as to say the concerns are overblown, and that teens who vape were already smokers.

“Kids vaping a lot are primarily either current cigarette smokers or former smokers. It’s far less hazardous than smoking (tobacco) and if they switched to vaping, that’s a net improvement,” said Dr. Kenneth Warner, former dean of the University of Michigan's Public Health School.

However, MDHHS Bob Wheaton said the kinds of flavors labeled on these products were marketed to teens and pushed them to start vaping.

“We’ve just seen sky-rocketing numbers among kids in middle and high school in recent years and what we’ve found was the flavored nicotine e-cigarettes are particularly appealing because of the flavor,” Wheaton said. “These flavors are designed to attract children to get them to start.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.