The US Food and Drug Administration began banning sales of electronic cigarettes to minors on Monday, which may end a contentious debate about whether e-cigarettes should be considered separately from other tobacco products.
In addition to banning the sale of e-cigarettes and other tobacco products to people under 18, the rules also required a photo ID to purchase them.
The battery-operated devices, which vapourise a flavoured fluid that typically included nicotine, had often been marketed as a way for smokers to wean themselves from regular cigarettes. However, with studies showing that e-cigarettes could lead young people to traditional tobacco products, the regulator was especially aiming to crack down on the industry.
''We have more to do to help protect Americans from the dangers of tobacco and nicotine, especially our youth,'' Sylvia Burwell, secretary of the US Department of Health & Human Services, in a statement released by the FDA in May. ''As cigarette smoking among those under 18 has fallen, the use of other nicotine products, including e-cigarettes, has taken a drastic leap. All of this is creating a new generation of Americans who are at risk of addiction.''
According to one study by University of Southern California researchers, teens who used e-cigarettes – often known as vaping were six times times more likely to try regular cigarettes than those whose had never vaped.
Meanwhile, the FDA would need to approve all e-cigarette products that had been available since February 2007. This would mean nearly every e-cigarette product on the market would need to go through an application process to deem whether it could continue to be sold.
Manufacturers would be able to keep selling their products for up to two years while they submitted a new production application, plus an additional year while the FDA reviewed it.
Also covered under the ban are premium, hand-rolled cigars, as well as hookah and pipe tobacco. Prior to the new regulations, there was no federal law that barred retailers from selling e-cigarettes, hookah tobacco or cigars to minors.