Vaping has emerged as a prominent cultural phenomenon in recent years, attracting both praise and scrutiny. While marketed as a less harmful alternative to traditional smoking, the trend has disproportionately impacted teenagers. For this reason, among several others, President Trump signed a $1.4 trillion spending bill that increased the tobacco age restriction to 21 across the country back in 2019— and it took effect immediately.
This article will cover Michigan’s vaping regulations in 2023, exploring the legal age for purchasing vape products and the implications of these rules. Understanding the context of these regulations is essential to comprehend their significance in safeguarding teenagers from these addictive substances.
What is a Vape Pen?
A vape pen, also known as a vaporizer pen, is a battery-powered device designed to convert liquid substances, often containing cannabinoids like THC or CBD or nicotine and flavorings, into an inhalable vapor. These devices are distinct from traditional cigarettes since they do not involve combustion, which produces harmful tar and many of the toxins found in smoke. Instead, vape pens heat a liquid solution, creating a vapor that users inhale.
This vaporization process is perceived as less harmful than traditional smoking, making vape pens a popular choice among those looking to quit smoking or reduce harm. However, research is still on the fence about the long-term safety and efficacy of vaping compared to smoking. Since there are very few regulations about what can go into a vape pen and how different substances may be more or less harmful compared to cigarettes, it’s impossible to say if one is more harmful than the other.
Legal Background on Vaping in Michigan
Michigan has a complex history of regulating vaping products, reflecting its efforts to address the challenges posed by this rapidly evolving industry. The state’s journey towards more robust vaping regulations can be traced back to 2010, when it introduced a prohibition on selling e-cigarettes to minors, adding this measure to the state’s juvenile law.
In August 2020, Michigan’s Tobacco 21 law went into effect, raising the legal age for purchasing tobacco and vaping products from 18 to 21 years. This measure aligned Michigan with the federal Tobacco 21 law enacted in December 2019, demonstrating the state’s commitment to reducing the accessibility of these products to minors.
Age Restrictions for Vaping in Michigan in 2023
In 2023, the legal age to purchase vaping products in Michigan remains consistent with federal regulations, requiring people to be at least 21. This age restriction encompasses all vape-related items, including e-cigarettes, flavored e-liquids, and other vaping devices.
It wasn’t until 2019 that Michigan took more decisive action against vaping, primarily driven by concerns over the youth vaping epidemic and the rising number of vaping-related illnesses. Governor Gretchen Whitmer made a significant move by announcing the state’s temporary emergency ban on flavored e-cigarettes, including menthol and mint flavors. This bold decision aimed to reduce the appeal of vaping products to young people, who were increasingly drawn to these flavors.
By September 2019, Michigan Public Act 17, which defined liquid nicotine, required a minimum safety standard and required retailers to keep vapes in a locked cabinet behind the counter, went into effect. Michigan Public Act 18 also went into effect, which defined vapes and e-cigarettes as separate from tobacco products but prohibited sales to minors as well as possession and use by minors.
Along with the age limit, Michigan has also reworked a lot of the aspects of its tobacco and vape sales program. For starters, online retailers have to verify the age of customers using a commercially available database. These retailers must also use a shipping service that mandates an adult signature upon delivery to prevent minors from accessing vaping products.
Michigan has also expanded its smoke-free laws to encompass e-cigarettes and vaping products, prohibiting their use in all public places where smoking is banned, such as restaurants, bars, offices, and enclosed spaces. This policy aims to protect non-vapers from exposure to second-hand vapor.
Additionally, vape shops and retailers in Michigan are required to obtain a tobacco sales license, and the state imposes a 50% tax on the wholesale price of e-liquids containing nicotine. The revenue generated from this tax supports public health programs, including tobacco prevention and cessation initiatives, underscoring Michigan's commitment to addressing the complex issues surrounding vaping.
It's worth noting that while Michigan has adopted the federal minimum age of 21, some states may have different regulations. This highlights the importance of staying informed about local laws regarding vaping. Michigan's adherence to the federal standard ensures uniformity and reinforces the commitment to curbing teen vaping, which was a primary driver of the age increase.
Purpose and Significance of the Age Limit
The age restriction on vaping products serves a crucial purpose: safeguarding the health and well-being of teenagers. By setting the minimum age at 21, lawmakers aim to reduce the accessibility of vape products to young people who may be more susceptible to the allure of these items. Research has shown that nicotine exposure during adolescence can have long-term detrimental effects on brain development, making it essential to limit access to such products during this vulnerable period.
The biggest issue with vape pens is how accessible they are. Since they’re pocket-sized and don’t smell as bad as cigarettes, younger people are more attracted to them. Unfortunately, because they’re so discreet and come in many attractive flavors, evidence suggests they’re more habit-forming than traditional cigarettes. Vapes can be hit discreetly indoors in rapid succession, while smoking cigarettes usually requires a person to go outside, take one or two puffs, and come back inside. Their convenience and discretion make them very attractive to teenagers who can sneak around and smoke them within the walls of their school.
Ensuring Compliance with the Age Limit
Several measures are in place to ensure compliance with the age restriction on vaping products. Retailers play a pivotal role by verifying the age of customers through identification checks. Anyone who appears to be under 30 years old must show an ID. Online sales require an ID check through an online database, and packages can only be delivered to adults who can present a matching 21+ ID upon delivery. Retailers need to be specially licensed to sell these products, too. That said, compliant gas stations, smoke shops, and vape stores must maintain licensure and check IDs of anyone purchasing these products. Additionally, communities and schools engage in educational efforts to raise awareness about the risks associated with vaping, discouraging underage use.
At the end of the day, the legal age to buy vape products in Michigan is 21 or older. Michigan’s age restriction on vaping products, in alignment with federal regulations, serves as a critical step in mitigating the impact of teen vaping. By curbing accessibility and raising awareness, the state aims to protect the health of its young population while addressing the complex relationship between teenagers and vaping.