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FDA proposes prohibiting menthol in cigarettes and flavors in cigars, restricting access to flavored e-cigarettes

The Food and Drug Administration announced on Nov. 15 that it will restrict sales of most flavored e-cigarettes to age-restricted stores, and move to outlaw two traditional tobacco products that disproportionately harm African-Americans: menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars.

The proposed menthol ban would be the most aggressive action the FDA has taken against the tobacco industry in nearly a decade, but the proposal is likely to face a legal battle.

The agency also plans to require age-verification measures for online sales to try to ensure that minors are not able to buy the flavor pods.

The effort to cut off access to flavored e-cigarettes stopped short of a ban that the FDA had threatened in recent months as it sought to persuade e-cigarette makers like Juul Labs to drop marketing strategies that might appeal to minors. The agency said it would allow stores to continue selling such flavored products, but only from closed off-areas that would be inaccessible to teenagers.

In a statement issued in response to the FDA proposal, ACS CAN said: "The only way to begin reversing this epidemic is for FDA to use its full regulatory authority to conduct premarket review of e-cigarettes and cigars. Relying on partial sales restrictions to somewhat curb access of these deadly products is not enough."

Read ACS CAN's complete statement.

The FDA's long-anticipated moves are driven by startling new figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showing a 78% increase in vaping by high school students, with 3.6 million high school and middle school students now using e-cigarettes.

"The bottom line is this: I will not allow a generation of children to become addicted to nicotine through e-cigarettes," said FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, noting an "astonishing" surge in teen e-cigarette use that is reversing years of progress in fighting youth tobacco addiction.  "We won't let this pool of kids, a pool of future potential smokers, to continue to build." 

Read Gottlieb's statement here.

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