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FDA seeks to ban most flavored e-cigarettes at retail locations

E-cigarettes and nicotine vaporizers have been under increasing scrutiny after dramatic increases in their use by young people. The rate of traditional tobacco smoking is at a record low, but vaping nicotine is increasingly popular among underage youth. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration believes part of the problem is the delicious-sounding flavors vaporizer fluids come in. Therefore, the agency plans to issue a regulation restricting the sale of flavored e-cigarettes at brick-and-mortar retail locations. In addition, it plans to require online purchasers to submit verification of their age.

"I think these news rules would be great first step," one doctor of adolescent medicine told NPR. She says research shows that vaping affects teens' brain development and believes flavors like mint, cucumber and mango are too attractive to underage users.

A teacher who covers tobacco risks in his class thinks the new rules could have an impact because gas stations and convenience stores are mainly where teenagers purchase e-cigarettes. However, kids have told him they already buy online or have older friends or siblings buy the products for them.

Regulations meant to limit e-cigarettes' popularity among youth

The vaping industry contends smoking e-cigarettes is safer than traditional combustible cigarettes, and that adult smokers often turn to vaping when they want to quit smoking. Scientists are still evaluating whether vaping is safer than smoking. While both products contain nicotine, there are other harmful chemicals in each one and there has yet to be a full survey of whether the chemicals in vape liquid are dangerous to inhale.

Even some in the industry feel marketing toward children has been a problem for vaping. An industry group called the Tobacco Vapor Electronic Cigarette Association told NPR one of the largest manufacturers, Juul, has been "irresponsible."

"You get to a point where basically they're selling a product like a lollipop," said a spokesperson for the group.

Ultimately, the FDA fears young people are setting aside one dangerous addiction but picking up another.

"The bottom line is that we are creating a whole pool of kids addicted to nicotine through e-cigarettes, some proportion of them are going to become longer term users of combustible tobacco that otherwise might never have initiated on tobacco," said the agency's commissioner.

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