FDA Limits Sales of Flavored E-Cigarettes, Proposes Ban on Menthols

The Food and Drug Administration announced Thursday that it will not ban flavored e-cigarettes, as it previously threatened to do, and will instead only allow stores to sell the products in areas that are off-limits to minors. The New York Times reports that the agency did, however, propose bans on two products predominantly marketed in African-American communities: menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars. If the bans prove successful, the consequences would be severe for the tobacco industry—menthol cigarettes currently account for 35 percent of tobacco sales. “Almost all adult smokers started smoking when they were kids,” FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, the leader of the agency’s crusade against e-cigarettes, said in a statement. “Today, we significantly advance our efforts to combat youth access and appeal with proposals that firmly and directly address the core of the epidemic: flavors.”

The plan, however, disappointed some advocates—especially after details on a plan to ban most flavored e-cigarettes were leaked last week. “Does this mean a simple curtain with a sign like we used to see at the entrance to the pornography section of video stores?” said the president of Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. But the agency’s aggressive push against e-cigarettes has prompted some retailers to make their own changes: On Tuesday, e-cigarette titan Juul Laboratories announced that it would stop selling most of its flavored pods in stores and end its social-media campaign.