FDA Moves To Regulate E-Cigs; Bans Sale to Minors

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(Washington, D.C.) The federal government wants to ban sales of electronic cigarettes to minors and require health warning labels and approval for new products under regulations being proposed by the Food and Drug Administration.

While the proposal won't immediately mean changes for the popular devices, the move is aimed at eventually taming the fast-growing e-cigarette industry.

Any further rules, "will have to be grounded in our growing body of knowledge and understanding about the use of e-cigarettes and their potential health risks or public health benefits," Commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg said.

We spoke with business owners who read the findings and they think these new rules have more to do with making money, than health concerns.

James Sexton works at Whatever Smoke Shop, and said he thinks some of the changes are good.

"You don't know the kind of environment the product is being made in. I can see they want to keep a watch on it, but I think a lot of it has to do with lost tax dollars."

Sexton says Tennessee Law doesn't let anyone under 18 buy these products anyway, but he thinks the concern over candy flavored cigarettes luring kids in to try the product is really just the FDA blowing smoke.

"We have flavored alcohol and mixed drinks all day long and nobody is threatening to take them off the shelf because they already get tax money from alcohol taxes."

Sexton added, "It's not like FDA hasn't had time to do some research. It might be that what they are finding isn't what they wanted to come out."

He says these changes could affect prices, because now the government will get a bigger chunk of the profits.

Once finalized, the agency could propose more restrictions on e-cigarettes. Officials didn't provide a timetable for that action.

"By being able to regulate e-cigarettes, we'll get a lot more information about what's in them, how they're made and we're already studying e-cigarettes in terms of how they're being used and what are their implications for health," Hamburg told CBS News.

"At the present time, when we can't regulate cigarettes, it's like they wild, wild West" she said. "Companies can do anything they want. They can market in ways that they want. ... Unless they make a therapeutic claim that it is a product for actual cessation of nicotine use, we can't regulate them. If they make a therapeutic claim, we can regulate them as a medical product."

Hamburg stressed to CBS News that, "Until we have the authority to regulate e-cigarettes, we cannot provide the information that the American public wants about the relative risk and safety of these products. ... We cannot put in place certain restrictions that might be appropriate with respect to how the products are made, the kind of flavorings, the kind of marketing, etc. So we see this as really a crucial first step."

The FDA said the public, members of the industry and others will have 75 days to comment on the proposal.

The agency will evaluate those comments before issuing a final rule but there's no timetable for when that will happen.

E-cigarettes are plastic or metal tubes, usually the size of a cigarette, that heat a liquid nicotine solution instead of burning tobacco. That creates vapor that users inhale.

Smokers like e-cigarettes because the nicotine-infused vapor looks like smoke but doesn't contain the thousands of chemicals, tar or odor of regular cigarettes.

Some smokers use e-cigarettes as a way to quit smoking tobacco, or to cut down.

However, there's not much scientific evidence showing e-cigarettes help smokers quit or smoke less, and it's unclear how safe they are.

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