You see it around campus — someone inhales from what looks to be a walkie talkie and then billows out a citrus scented nimbus cloud.
It is called “vaping,” and the Ingham County Health Department is currently working on a piece of legislation that will regulate its sale similar to products with tobacco in order to prevent its sale to minors.
According to Ingham County, the goal of the Electronic Smoking Device Licensing Regulation is “reducing youth access” to electronic smoking products as well as “maintaining compliance and licensing records of businesses that sell electronic smoking devices.”
Linda Vail, a health officer for Ingham County said the end goal of the regulation is the same as before, only now vape products will be regulated similarly to tobacco.
“Virtually anyone can buy and sell e-cigarettes in Ingham County right now, even children,” she said in a press release. The law itself states, “electronic smoking devices contain components and chemicals that are dangerous to young children.”
Data collected by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Tobacco Products, and cited by Ingham County, stated that electronic cigarette use among minors has tripled in recent years.
The county held an open forum where those who had grievances with the proposed legislation could express their concern.
Matthew Kirkpatrick is an advocate for Smoke Free Michigan and, during the meeting, stated he “couldn’t agree more” with the notion of keeping these products out of the hands of minors.
Smoke shops throughout the state have “never sold to minors,” he said.
Shops that sell both tobacco and vape products, or hybrids, have been “self-policing” for a long while and remain committed to only selling their products to those that are of age, Kirkpatrick said.
“The goal is tobacco harm reduction,” Kirkpatrick continued, “this could restrict access to those people that have used this product as a way to quit smoking.”
He said he feels grouping vape products with tobacco will cause a negative stigma against a product that is a relatively healthier and aids in the quitting process.
“It is purely semantics,” Vail said as a reassurance that while these electronic products might be grouped with tobacco, the law does not say they are one in the same.
Vail also insisted during the meeting that there is no hidden agenda against tobacco and vape shops.
Ingham County released a fact sheet regarding licensing for store owners. Foremost, the regulation states that firms already in possession of a tobacco license will not have to reapply. However, stores that do not have a tobacco license and stores that exclusively sell vapor products will be forced to apply.
This is where those in opposition to the regulation, like Kirkpatrick, have an issue with the application process, finding that “grouping tobacco with vapor products lacks common sense.”
“This law only protects tobacco shops. It forces vapor shops to apply for a license completely unrelated to the product they sell,” Kirkpatrick said.
Those in opposition also assert it “has very little to do with protecting the youth.”
Kirkpatrick paid mention to the notion that minors simply utilize older siblings or friends to obtain the products.
Students have also weighed in on the issue, as this will clearly apply to shops around campus.
Psychology junior Nikki Westerberg feels vape is a relatively healthier option compared to smoking cigarettes.
“I felt a lot healthier after I switched over and can actually breathe better,” she said.
The regulation is scheduled to go into effect at the beginning of next year and there will be a public hearing on Nov. 10 at the Ingham County Courthouse for the public to voice its concern.