By David Eggert
LANSING (AP) – Michigan lawmakers on Wednesday again moved to ban minors from using electronic cigarettes despite Gov. Rick Snyder’s continued opposition because the legislation also would keep the products from being regulated like tobacco.
On a 37-0 vote, the Senate sent the House a bill that would prohibit those 17 and younger from buying or possessing e-cigarettes – battery-operated products that deliver nicotine and produce an odorless vapor.
Snyder supports the ban, but vetoed similar legislation in January because he said a provision to treat e-cigarettes differently from tobacco would conflict with federal regulatory efforts.
“It’s nicotine. It’s a tobacco product,” the Republican governor said Tuesday ahead of the expected Senate vote. “If science proves otherwise in a few years, we can always relook at it.”
Michigan is among just seven states where minors can legally buy the products, according to bill supporters, including the e-cigarette industry. In two of those states, Texas and Montana, proposed bans on sales to minors are on the governor’s desk.
Last year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration proposed regulating e-cigarettes, including banning sales to minors. A public comment period was extended until July 2.
Republican Sen. Rick Jones of Grand Ledge, the sponsor of the legislation, said it might be time for legislators to override Snyder if he vetoes the measure again. Two-thirds of both the House and Senate would have to back an override.
“I don’t believe that children should be able to buy this in gas stations and stores,” Jones said, contending that e-cigarettes are not tobacco and should neither be taxed like tobacco nor outlawed inside bars and restaurants. “They’re a nicotine-delivery device similar to nicotine gum or a nicotine patch.”
Last month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that teen smoking hit a new low in 2014 while the popularity of e-cigarettes and water pipes boomed. The number of high school students who tried e-cigarettes tripled in one year to more than 13 percent. Smoking of traditional cigarettes fell to 9.2 percent from more than 13 percent.
The Senate also unanimously approved a bill Wednesday banning the sale of powered alcohol products.
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