The U.S. government on Thursday took wide-ranging steps to crack down for the first time on e-cigarettes and cigars, growing in popularity among teens, and banned sales to anyone under age 18 in hopes of sparing a new generation from nicotine addiction.
The Food and Drug Administration's action brought regulation of e-cigarettes, cigars, pipe tobacco and hookah tobacco in line with existing rules for cigarettes, smokeless tobacco and roll-your-own tobacco. The new rules take effect in 90 days.
The rules promise to have a major impact on the $3.4 billion e-cigarette industry that has flourished in the absence of federal regulation, making the nicotine-delivery devices the most commonly used tobacco products for U.S. youngsters.
The FDA said it will require companies to submit e-cigarettes and other newer tobacco products for government approval, provide it with a list of their ingredients and place health warnings on packages and in advertisements.
Health advocacy groups hailed the move. Industry officials said the regulations could hurt smaller companies and cripple a their job-creating business due to the expense of the regulatory process. Wall Street analysts expect the regulations to herald a new wave of consolidation led by big tobacco companies.
E-cigarettes are handheld electronic devices that vaporize a fluid typically including nicotine and a flavor component. Using them is called “vaping.”
The FDA will require age verification by photo identification, ban sales from vending machines except in adults-only locations and stop the distribution of free product samples.
The new regulations had been highly anticipated after the agency issued a proposed rule two years ago on how to oversee the e-cigarette industry and the other products.
“Millions of kids are being introduced to nicotine every year, a new generation hooked on a highly addictive chemical,” U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Burwell told reporters, calling the rules a first step toward breaking the cycle of addiction.
Burwell said health officials still do not have the scientific evidence showing e-cigarettes can help smokers quit, as the industry asserts, and avoid the known ills of tobacco.