Survey finds strong support for legislation aimed at further restricting and reducing tobacco use ⋆
A package of tobacco prevention legislation has strong support among Michigan voters surveyed in a telephone poll over the summer.
That’s according to Keep MI Kids Tobacco Free Alliance, a coalition of more than 120 public health organizations and associations, hospital systems and education groups, including the Michigan Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics and at least a dozen county health departments from across the state.
One of the organizations in the coalition is the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, which commissioned the Glengariff Group, Inc. to conduct a statewide survey of 800 voters likely to cast ballots in the November 2024 election. Conducted July 31 through August 5, the live operator phone survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5%.
It found that when asked if they supported the components of the legislation, which includes prohibiting the sale of flavored tobacco products, allowing for tougher restrictions on tobacco sales and requiring retailers wishing to sell tobacco to obtain a license, 67 percent, or more than two-thirds of likely voters answered yes. Nearly half, 48 percent, said they were “strongly in support.”
The eight Michigan Senate bills in the package include:
- Senate Bill 647, sponsored by Sen. Sue Shink (D-Northfield Twp.), which would allow local counties and cities to enact tougher restrictions on tobacco sales within their own community.
- Senate Bill 648, sponsored by Sen. Stephanie Change (D-Detroit), would tax e-cigarettes and vaping products containing nicotine for the first time and increase tobacco taxes with proceeds used to reduce tobacco use among youth.
- Senate Bills 649 and 650, introduced by Sen. John Cherry (D-Flint), would end the sale of all flavored tobacco products, including flavored e-cigarettes and menthol-flavored cigarettes.
- Senate Bills 651 and 652, introduced by Sen. Sam Singh (D-East Lansing), would require tobacco retailers to be licensed, just like liquor retailers, so the state can enforce laws prohibiting the sale of tobacco to minors.
- Senate Bill 653, sponsored by Sen. Mary Cavanaugh (D-Redford Twp.), and Senate Bill 654, sponsored by Sen. Paul Wojno (D-Warren), would repeal penalties against minors for tobacco purchase, use and possession, which supporters say have been “ineffective.”
“It’s time to put our kids first and enact comprehensive tobacco prevention policies to create the first tobacco-free generation with a healthier future ahead,” said Dr. Brittany Tayler, an internist and pediatrician at Hurley Medical Center in Flint, who is also an assistant professor at the Pediatric Public Health Initiative at Michigan State University and co-chair of Keep MI Kids Tobacco Free Alliance. “Enacting strong policies will especially benefit those communities that have been historically targeted by the tobacco industry including youth and Black Americans. We are very encouraged by these polling results and are ready to work with the Legislature to put these prevention policies in place.”
The poll also found that by a more than 2-to-1 margin, 65% to 29%, those surveyed said it was “more important to stop another generation from becoming addicted to tobacco and e-cigarettes marketed by companies that target children with flavored tobacco products,” than it was “to protect the rights of adults to buy tobacco and e-cigarette products in their choice of flavors including candy, fruit, menthol and mint.”
In August, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services issued a 2023 Tobacco-Free Report Card for the state, also focusing on flavored tobacco products.
“More than 80% of youth who have used a tobacco product started with a flavored product,” said Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian, MDHHS chief medical executive. “E-cigarettes are detrimental to the health of our young Michigan residents, and these products can be highly addictive and can contain a variety of toxic chemicals and heavy metals. Using these products can permanently damage a developing adolescent brain and tobacco-free policies are an important step to prevent youth vaping and promote youth smoking cessation.”
Meanwhile, the Alliance said that tobacco companies have “intentionally targeted Black Americans and other communities for decades with marketing for menthol-flavored cigarettes,” which “cause devastating and disproportionate harm to the health of Black Americans.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, despite only making up only about 12% of the U.S. population, approximately 40% of excess deaths due to menthol cigarette smoking in the U.S. between 1980 and 2018 were those of African Americans.
“Enough is enough. We cannot let Big Tobacco addict another generation of our kids. Our state laws are out of date and out of touch with what Michigan residents want and need to protect youth and advance racial and health equity,” said Minou Jones, founder of Making It Count and chair of the Detroit Wayne Oakland Tobacco-Free Coalition. “Coalitions in Detroit, Grand Rapids, Flint, Newaygo and other communities across the state are ready to help push this life-saving legislation over the finish line. We look forward to working with lawmakers from all corners of the state to end flavored tobacco sales, hold retailers accountable and put the health of all Michiganders ahead of tobacco industry profits.”
In 2019, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer tried to ban flavored nicotine vaping products by declaring a public health emergency based on recommendations from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS). However, that ended up being stymied by the Michigan Court of Appeals, which ruled MDHHS had circumvented “normal rule-making procedures which afford the public meaningful opportunities to be heard.”
In 2021, Whitmer withdrew the ban in favor of proposed legislative action, which didn’t come while the Republicans controlled the Michigan House and Senate for the remainder of that year and 2022.
Democrats took control of both chambers of the legislature in November 2022 for the first time in 40 years.
All eight of the bills in the current package, introduced in November, were sent to the Senate Regulatory Affairs Committee.
authored by Jon King
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