Police In Macomb County Out Looking For Shops Violating Flavored Vape Ban

WWJ News
October 02, 2019 - 3:01 pm

STERLING HEIGHTS (WWJ) - Macomb County authorities are on the lookout for retailers who are selling flavored vaping products now that a ban is in full effect in Michigan.

Shop owners had a two-week grace period in which to educate themselves and comply with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's emergency rules, which cover products with sweet and fruity flavors, including mint and menthol.

Now police in Macomb County say they'll be making the rounds -- with walk-ins, cadet stings and other methods -- to make sure shops are complying with the law, and not advertising or displaying flavored vapes.

Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith, who supports the ban, says least a third of 11th grade kids in the county are vaping; with 40% saying they do it for the taste. 

"Look, we know that when it's flavored in such a way it's targeted for only one reason, and that's to addict our kids," Smith told WWJ's Ron Dewey and other reporters. "Some of this has,we're getting these from China, formaldehyde in the vaping...and what the nicotine does to our kids is unbelievable."

Sterling Heights Police Chief Dale Dwojakowski said his office has been inundated with complaints from local schools about fruit and candy-flavored e-cigarettes in the hands of students. "Parents should be aware that those little pens they see in their kids' bedrooms -- little things that look like USB flash drives, they don't even know what they are -- those are vaping cartridges, vaping pens," Dwojakowski said.

Shop owners who continue to sell outlawed products early on will get a warning, with those refusing to comply then slapped a fine and a 6-month misdemeanor.

Pablo Issac, who runs the Vape Shop in Fraser, says the banned products accounted for 70% of his business that can’t be made up.

"Taking the loss as far as the inventory itself is not a huge issue. But it's not the inventory that's really the issue, it's the fact that customers that came in here to purchase that, I lost also," he told Dewey. "So, now the business as a whole took a loss."

Issac said while officials claim they're concerned about public health, there's an ulterior motive.

"Overall they just targeted nicotine because of tax purposes; because it's not taxed as much as cigarettes and stuff," he said. "So I think the whole purpose of this was basically to move this to where they can get their money out of it."

Smokers and retailers should note that the ban does not include tobacco-flavored vape products. Tobacco e-cigarettes, just as traditional cigarettes, remain legal to sell. 

While the ban is only temporary at this point, Whitmer will be asking lawmakers to make it permanent. 

Isaac said his former customers will simply buy what they want from the black market going forward.