GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A surprise announcement from the state health department Wednesday: Vape stores have two weeks to get flavored products off the shelves or face fines or even jail time.
Unsurprisingly, vape advocates are extremely unhappy.
“We’re going to have to go out of business,” said Vaughn Jurgens, owner of Grand Rapids E Liquid on 28th Street SE near East Paris Avenue. “Eighty-five percent of our business is flavoring.”
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services has labeled youth vaping an epidemic and a health emergency. Earlier this month, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer ordered the MDHHS to write up rules banning flavored nicotine vaping product sales in stores and online.
Jurgens said the ban will mean the effective end of his business, which provides income to him and his half-dozen employees.
“They’re all going to lose their jobs. I mean, have they (the state) thought about the impacts on people’s families this is going to have?” Jurgens said.
He knew this was coming after the governor issued her executive order, but thought he would have longer to comply.
“We were supposed to have 30 days and then they were going to set up the rules,” Jurgens said. “I have $200,000 in flavorings in my clean room right now. I mean, I’m supposed to dump all that out? I mean, it’s going to ruin us financially.”
The announcement of the proposed ban made news nationally and put the vaping industry on alert.
“The impact will be hundreds of stores shutting their doors,” said Gregory Conley, president of the American Vaping Association, based in Stratford, Connecticut. “Most of these stores are not just going to close their doors voluntarily and pack it up, they’re going to keep fighting. Some of them are going to need to be arrested.”
According to the American Vaping Association, an estimated 500,000 people vaped in Michigan in the last month and some 200 vape-specific business generate more than $10 million per month in revenue.
The national vape industry advocacy group said lawyers ready to go.
“Gov. Whitmer and her administration will lose in court,” Conley said. “Governors are not kings or queens. They don’t get to make up laws.”
The vape industry attorneys will seek an immediate injunction in state or federal court to stop the ban from going into effect.
“This kind of precedent would allow a governor and a health department to declare just about anything to be a health emergency allowing them to ban things willy-nilly, whatever they dislike,” Conley said.
Under the new rules, any violation could result in a retailer being charged with a misdemeanor, punishable by a $200 fine and up to six months in jail. Repeated violations could result in daily fines.