LANSING, Mich. –- Mason County alone has seen a handful of teens go into seizures, after smoking an additive called Darth Vapor, which officials tested to be synthetic marijuana.
The latest incident happened Monday, when a 19-year-old Baldwin man was airlifted to the hospital in critical condition.
Wednesday afternoon, the Michigan Senate voted on this growing concern, and what they believe to be two major problems: e-cigarettes and powdered alcohol.
Both the Senate bill to ban the sale of e-cigarettes to minors and the one to ban powdered alcohol across the state, passed unopposed: 37 votes of approval, excluding one state senator who was excused.
“We will soon be the only state that allows stores to sell electronic cigarettes to minors; this has got to stop,” said Michigan Senator Rick Jones, who represents the 24th district. “We don’t want kids to get addicted to nicotine.”
Jones sponsored the bills and said kids should not be able to buy e-cigarettes at gas stations or stores, calling the sellers “greedy people that will sell nicotine products to children.”
In Mason County, Sheriff Kim Cole said it is already a serious problem. Since March 13, there have been at least four cases of students having seizures, including one on a school bus and even at school, after inhaling Darth Vapor through an e-cigarette. State crime labs tested the substance and list it as a Schedule 1 drug.
Jones wants e-cigarettes out of the hands of minors; but when it comes to powdered alcohol, he wants it out of the state entirely.
“If we have powdered alcohol sold in this state, people will be able to make super powerful drinks; we don’t need that,” said Jones. “Alcohol is a poison. Now used in moderation by adults, that’s okay. However, this product is designed for abuse. It would be very attractive to young people.”
Yet when it comes to the issue of regulating e-cigarettes, Jones disagrees with Gov. Rick Synder, and does not think e-cigarettes should be treated like tobacco products.
“I don’t believe [e-cigarettes] should be treated as a tobacco cigarette, that’s not what they are: they’re a nicotine delivery device, similar to nicotine gum, or to a nicotine patch,” said Jones. “Many of my friends have used them to get off of tobacco cigarettes; I think that’s a good thing.”
Both bills are headed to the Michigan House of Representatives for consideration.
For the time being, officials like Cole ask parents who find their kids using e-cigarettes to investigate what they may be putting inside of it to vape, because it could be deadly.
“You can purchase [e-cigarettes] through the internet,” said Cole. “Look, if you find your son or daughter in possession of an e-cig it might be more than just your son or daughter trying to kick a smoking habit.”