E-cigarettes facing new sales restrictions from FDA

E-cigarettes will face strict new limits imposed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, according to a senior FDA official, restricting sales of many popular fruit flavors amid what the health agency has called an epidemic of youth use.

Sales of popular e-cigarette fruit flavors will be limited to adult-only establishments, such as vaping stores. The restrictions will apply only to cartridge-style devices, such as a popular product from startup Juul Labs Inc., according to the official.

Online sales will be allowed, but only by retailers who take steps to verify the buyer’s age, similar to the way alcohol can be sold on the web as long as there’s someone 21 or older to sign for the package, said the official. The regulations, set to be announced next week, will take effect in the coming months.

Spokesmen for the FDA and Juul declined to comment. Plans for the new regulations were reported earlier Thursday by the Washington Post.

The FDA has talked for months about ways to reduce youth use, citing rising concern that e-cigarettes were creating a new class of nicotine users, rather than primarily being used to help people transition off regular cigarettes. The FDA has called youth use of the devices “an epidemic” and said it would consider significant action to stop it. Vaping surged 77 percent among high school-age children and about 50 percent among middle-schoolers, according to preliminary government data.

Juul’s device has become wildly popular, accounting for almost 1 in 3 e-cigarette sales as of the end of 2017, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The San Francisco-based company is backed by high-profile investors, including Tiger Global Management and Tao Capital Partners. Fundraising negotiations this year pegged a $15 billion valuation on the business, making its founders worth more than $800 million each.

Advocates said the FDA needs to impose even greater restrictions, including banning online sales. “It’s not enough,” said Meredith Berkman, co-founder of Parents Against Vaping E-Cigarettes. “There has to be a complete ban on flavors everywhere.”

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