US regulators ban e-cigarette, cigar sales to minors

Teens smoking more e-cigarettes.
Teens smoking more e-cigarettes.

NEW YORK (Reuters) -- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Thursday banned sales of e-cigarettes, cigars, pipe tobacco and hookah tobacco to people under age 18, in line with cigarette rules, a move aimed at preventing a new generation from becoming addicted to nicotine.

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The agency said it also will require companies to submit these products to it for regulatory review, provide it with a list of product ingredients and place health warnings on their product packages and in advertisements.

The FDA's regulation had been highly anticipated after the agency issued a proposed rule two years ago on how to oversee the $3 billion e-cigarette industry and these other products.

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Cigars had previously not been regulated by the FDA. Their makers had lobbied for their more expensive, typically hand-rolled products to be excluded from such oversight.

The FDA said in a statement that the regulations will bring all these products in line with how it oversees other tobacco products such as cigarettes, smokeless tobacco and roll-your-own tobacco.

E-cigarettes are handheld electronic devices that vaporize a fluid typically including nicotine and a flavor component. Using them is called "vaping."

n 2009, the FDA began focusing on e-cigarettes as the product began appearing in the U.S. market. That year, President Barack Obama signed the Family Control Act, a law that gave the agency authority over cigarettes, smokeless and roll-your-own tobacco products. Congress also gave authority to the agency to assert jurisdiction over other tobacco products.

The FDA is trying to limit teen use, which has been soaring, by prohibiting sales to those under 18 and the distribution of free samples. But the agency does not directly limit flavors in e-cigarettes, which vary from bacon to bubble gum and have been popular with teens.

The use of e-cigarettes is on the rise among U.S. middle and high school students, according to government figures, and officials said they are now the most commonly used tobacco product among youth.

Data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the FDA's Center for Tobacco Products released in April showed that 3 million middle and high school students reported using e-cigarettes in 2015, compared with 2.46 million in 2014.

The FDA established a staggered review period for products introduced after Feb. 15, 2007, of between 12 and 24 months. The FDA had proposed a two-year grace period.

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