LANSING – Legislation that would go beyond blocking the emergency rules released this week banning flavored e-cigarette vapors to prohibiting the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services from ever implementing rules banning the manufacture, sale or use of the products was introduced in the House, with the sponsor saying the ban would lead to thousands of state residents losing their jobs and push others back into smoking tobacco.

HB 4996 was introduced as the state has said looking into now 12 reported cases of lung disease related to vaping (with another possible 14 cases reported).

Also, on Friday, Walmart, the nation’s largest retailer, announced it would stop selling e-cigarettes in all its stores both because federal, state and local regulatory complexity and “uncertainty regarding e-cigarettes.”

The legislation, introduced by Rep. Beau LaFave (R-Iron Mountain), has gotten an enthusiastic response on social media, with a number of people questioning the authority of the state to issue the emergency rules and calling Governor Gretchen Whitmer a dictator.

One person who owns a vaping shop in Battle Creek posted four different memes of Whitmer saying Governor Gretchen Stalin or Mussolini or Hussein or Chavez “welcomes you to Michigan where democracy is a pure myth.”

Whitmer announced earlier this month the state would issue the emergency rules blocking the sale of flavored vapors when the state at that time reported six people had been sick from vaping-related illness. This week, DHHS said the state is looking into 12 cases, nine of which have been confirmed. There are another possible 14 cases in the state that have been reported in the state, DHHS said.

The emergency rules take effect in early October and for six months prohibit the sale or delivery of flavored vapors to any consumer in the state. Violations can lead to jail time and fines.

HB 4996 says the department “shall not promulgate or enforce a rule that bans the sale, manufacturing, or use of a vapor product.”

It also says, “notwithstanding this act or any provision of federal law to the contrary, the Legislature finds that all of the following are not subject to federal regulation and are instead subject to this state’s sovereign authority: (a) the manufacturing of a vapor product in this state, (b) the sale and purchase of a vapor product that is manufactured in this state.”

Physicians are still trying to isolate what has caused the illnesses in the 530 reported cases from 38 states, including Michigan. So far six deaths have been confirmed from those illnesses.

As written, the bill could in theory prevent the state from taking action against a vaping product even if it was shown conclusively to cause the illnesses.

While much of the discussion on vaping has revolved around people younger than 18 vaping, the vast majority of cases that have been studied nationwide – so far 373 of the 530 cases according to the federal Centers for Disease Control – have involved adults, persons older than 18. A total of 84 percent of the cases involve people older than 18, the CDC said.

Serendipitously, in testimony a week ago to the House Oversight Committee vaping shop owners said that 80 percent of adult users preferred flavored vapors, the kind of vapors the state rules will bar.

In a statement made as he introduced the bill, Mr. LaFave said the state rules, “will potentially make criminals out of adults who are trying to use a safer alternative to kick the habit of traditional tobacco cigarettes. This will undoubtedly create a black market for these products which could be even more dangerous to public health.”

And LaFave said of his bill and the process to issue the emergency rules, “I don’t care if the executive is a Republican or Democrat nor a governor or president. Bad public policies implemented without input from lawmakers. And the public should never be ignored.”

This story was published by Gongwer News Service.