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FDA wants to ban menthol cigarettes, restrict flavored e-cigs




A variety of electronic cigarette flavors are viewed for sale at Vape New York.
A variety of electronic cigarette flavors are viewed for sale at Vape New York.
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

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Scott Gottlieb, commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, pledged Thursday to try to ban menthol from regular cigarettes, outlaw flavors in all cigars, and tighten rules regarding the sale of most flavored versions of electronic cigarettes.

The move represents a major step to further push down U.S. smoking rates, which have been falling for decades.

The restrictions are mainly aimed at reducing smoking in kids: About half of teens who smoke cigarettes choose menthols and flavored e-cigarettes have been blamed for a recent increase in teen vaping rates.

"I will not allow a generation of children to become addicted to nicotine through e-cigarettes," Gottlieb said in a statement.

Health advocates say a menthol ban would have greater impact on the health of Americans, but it would likely take years to put in place. The changes for e-cigarettes could kick in within a few months.

Battery-powered e-cigarettes are more popular among teens than regular smokes and are considered safer. But many versions contain potentially addictive nicotine, and health officials believe they set kids who try them on a path toward regular cigarettes.

Gottlieb called for measures to prevent the marketing of e-cigarettes directly to kids and ensure there are added safeguards preventing online sales of e-cigarettes to minors. He also proposed beefing up measures so that convenience stores and some other retailers don't sell e-cigarettes in kid-friendly flavors like cherry and vanilla. They could still be sold in vape shops or other businesses who don't admit minors.

With files from the Associated Press

Guests:

Jayne O'Donnell, healthcare policy reporter for USA Today, who has been covering the story; she tweets @JayneODonnell

Matt Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids

Mark Kleiman, drug policy expert professor of public policy at New York University; he tweets @MarkARKleiman