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FDA Set To Regulate E-Cigarettes

The Food and Drug Administration has announced regulations preventing electronic cigarette makers from selling to minors and requiring their products to carry health warnings, but stopped short with banning flavors and TV ads.

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By Shawn Dwyer

05/06/14

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For the first time since electronic cigarettes have hit the market, the Food and Drug Administration will regulate the controversial product by banning sales to minors and requiring makers to use warning labels that say their devices pose a health risk.

The new rules are planned on being announced Thursday, though the FDA won’t go as far as health advocates and some members of Congress would like, balking at restrictions for TV ads and banning flavors over concerns of marketing the product to minors.

Mitchell Zeller, director of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products, conceded that the new regulations leave “far more questions than answers," but do allow for more regulations further down the line. Still, the new rules take a "significant step in the agency's ability to regulate tobacco products," Zeller said.

The FDA’s action followed a group of Democrats led by Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Beverly Hills) and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) releasing a report that excoriated the electronic cigarette industry for aggressively targeting minors in their advertising, something that would be illegal for makers of regular tobacco cigarettes.

"In the absence of federal regulation, some e-cigarette manufacturers appear to be using marketing tactics similar to those previously used by the tobacco industry to sell their products to minors," the report said.

"FDA needs to act without further delay to stop the companies from marketing their addictive products to children," said Waxman.

Electronic cigarette users have exploded in recent years, rising dramatically from 50,000 in 2008 to 3.5 million in 2012, turning the product into a multi-billion dollar industry. Though safer than regular cigarettes, the effects of e-cigs on health remain unknown, though there has been some concern recently that some devices can deliver carcinogenic toxins.

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