The Food and Drug Administration is planning to limit the sale of sweet electronic cigarette flavors in an attempt to curtail what its commissioner calls an "epidemic" of teen vaping, according to an agency official.
The FDA will ban convenience store and gas station sales of flavors other than tobacco, mint and menthol next week, the official said. Stricter age-verification requirements are also planned for online sales of e-cigarettes.
FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb said in September that the agency would halt sales of flavored electronic cigarettes if the major manufacturers couldn't prove they were doing enough to keep them out of the hands of children and teens.
The agency gave Juul, Vuse, MarkTen XL, Blu and Logic 60 days to submit plans to prevent youth vaping and said it could order their products off the market if it didn't deem those plans robust enough. Those five brands make up more than 97 percent of the U.S. market for e-cigarettes.
Gottlieb told USA TODAY in September that the FDA was "reconsidering our overall approach" after a review of preliminary data showed youth vaping was up 75 percent over last year.
"Teenagers are becoming regular users, and the proportion of regular users is increasing," said Gottlieb. "We’re going to have to take action."
The planned restrictions would not apply to vape shops or other specialty retail stores, which are more often used by adults who are using vaping to try to quit smoking. The FDA plans were first reported by the Washington Post.
New federal data out Thursday showed the percentage of people who smoke cigarettes in the United States fell to 14 percent in 2017, the lowest level since records have been kept.
Gottlieb and other public health officials are trying to strike a balance between helping adult smokers quit and not hooking a new generation on nicotine through e-cigarettes.