THURSDAY, Nov. 15, 2018 (HealthDay News) -- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said today it will take steps to limit or ban access to flavored electronic cigarettes, menthol cigarettes, and flavored cigars.
The move against flavored e-cigarettes stops short of the full ban that had been expected from the agency. Instead, sales of these products -- thought to be especially alluring to teens -- will only be allowed in stores within special closed-off areas made inaccessible to minors, The New York Times reported. More unexpected was the FDA's proposed ban on menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars, products that have long been thought to disproportionately harm the health of black Americans. The menthol ban still has regulatory hurdles to overcome, so removal of those products from the market could take two years, the Times noted. Still, the move would come as a huge blow to the tobacco industry, because menthols make up more than a third of the cigarette market.
In a statement released today, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D., noted that "almost all adult smokers started smoking when they were kids. Today, we significantly advance our efforts to combat youth access and appeal with proposals that firmly and directly address the core of the epidemic: flavors."
Nevertheless, the decision to restrict but not ban flavored e-cigarettes came as a surprise, because leaked documents had suggested a full FDA ban was imminent. In the end, the complex legalities of imposing a ban may have meant drawn-out court battles, something the FDA may have wanted to avoid, legal experts told the Times. Instead, Gottlieb said that within the next three months, e-cigarette manufacturers should remove the products from "where kids can access them and from online sites that do not have sufficiently robust age-verification procedures."