Looking to reduce underage vaping, the Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday released new guidelines regulating the sale of flavored e-cigarettes.
The proposal seeks to prevent minors from buying products flavored as bubble gum and cotton candy in convenience stores and online as the agency described youth e-cigarette use as an epidemic.
Nationally, more than 3.6 million middle and high school students used e-cigarettes in the past month in 2018, the FDA said, despite the federal government banning sales to those under 18. If companies don't follow the rules, regulators could pull their products from the market.
Guidelines proposed Wednesday would require e-cigarette makers to only sell most flavored products to stores that verify customers' ages when they enter or include an age-restricted area for vaping products. For online sales, the agency seeks to mandate third-party identity-verification and prevent bulk sales. The FDA added it will also remove vaping products that target minors, such as ones with packaging mimicking candy or cookies.
“The onus is now on the companies and the vaping industry to work with us to try and bring down these levels of youth use, which are simply intolerable,” said FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb.
Manufacturers have until 2021 to submit e-cigarettes for safety and health review for FDA approval. Gottlieb previously pushed the Obama administration's 2018 deadline to 2022.
E-cigarettes such as Juul typically heat a flavored nicotine solution into an inhalable vapor. School staff have reported students vaping odorless devices in bathrooms and hallways. Juul said in a statement it has moved to reduce underage vaping, including closing its Instagram account in November.
Gas stations and convenience stores have pushed back against the outlined changes since the agency discussed them in November. New guidelines aren't expected to hurt sales at vape stores because many require ID to enter.
“They are picking winners and losers in the marketplace while handing a government monopoly to other channels of trade,” the National Association of Convenience Stores said in a message to members.
Anti-smoking activists have expressed skepticism about whether the proposed guidelines can cut back teen vaping, especially as the FDA has little authority on how stores display and sell e-cigarettes. Doctors have warned that vaping can lead to smoking cigarettes and cite health risks to developing brains.
Exempting menthol and mint flavors from the ban is also a mistake, said Erika Sward of the American Lung Association, as data shows about half of teens who vape smoke them.
“FDA continues to nibble around the edges and that will not end the epidemic,” Sward said.
The FDA is accepting comments on the guidelines for 30 days and will finalize them this year.
Contributing: The Associated Press
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: FDA proposes e-cigarette sale restrictions to curb teen vaping