Federal regulators this week announced new standards that will officially ban the sale of e-cigarettes and other tobacco products to minors for the first time.
The Food and Drug Administration said the final rule would extend regulations currently applied to cigarettes to e-cigs, cigars, hookah and pipe tobacco.
Tobacco producers will need to receive FDA authorization to sell new products and to market them as “light,” “low” or “mild.” Manufacturers will also be required to list their production facilities and products, as well as disclose their ingredients and include health warnings on packaging and advertisements.
Health officials said that the rule would allow the FDA to evaluate ingredients and health risks while preventing misleading marketing claims and appeals to young people and non-tobacco users.
Although e-cigarettes are routinely touted as safer than conventional cigarettes, studies suggest that they are just as addictive and their ingredients remain largely under wraps. One common ingredient, the flavoring chemical diacetyl, is linked to severe lung disease.
The rule will ban distribution of free samples and sales in vending machines — unless in an adult-only facility — and will require retailers to verify customers' ages with a photo ID.
"As cigarette smoking among those under 18 has fallen, the use of other nicotine products, including e-cigarettes, has taken a drastic leap," Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell said in a statement. "All of this is creating a new generation of Americans who are at risk of addiction."
The rule will take effect in 90 days, but manufacturers can continue to sell their products while they file applications with the FDA and as the agency reviews the filings — potentially up to three years.
The requirements apply to "new tobacco products" on the market before February 2007, but reports noted that nearly all e-cigarettes debuted after that date. Some in Congress hope to push that date back in order to grandfather more products under the old rules.
Industry groups criticized the rule and suggested it could cost companies $1 million for each variety of e-cigarette. Critics added that it could force all but the largest tobacco companies out of the e-cig business and hurt smokers that use them to cut back on traditional cigarettes.
Health advocates, however, said that the rule is necessary in light of the rapid increase in e-cigarette use, particularly among young people.
"From a health perspective, to reduce the social acceptance of them is good because frankly, it's the wild, wild West out there," Ellen Hahn of the University of Kentucky College of Nursing told USA Today. "Vape stores are everywhere."