"I believe these menthol-flavored products represent one of the most common and pernicious routes by which kids initiate on combustible cigarettes. I don't want to create a situation where the combustible products have features that make them more attractive than the non-combustible products or a situation where those who now use menthol-flavored cigarettes might find it less attractive to switch completely to an e-cigarette", he note. Given the strong hold Juul and other devices have on younger users, some health advocates had hoped for more stringent safeguards.
The FDA has been taken earlier steps to investigate the marketing of e-cigarettes by a number of companies, including the market leader, Juul Labs Inc. of a San Francisco.
"The changes I seek would protect kids by having all flavored ENDs products - other than tobacco, mint and menthol flavors or non-flavored products - sold in age-restricted, in-person locations and, if sold online, under heightened practices for age verification", Gottlieb said.
"There's been a lot of announcements from the FDA about its plans to do things but it's disappointing to not see any clear dates or timelines about when they plan to implement any of these pieces", said Micah Berman, an associate public health and law professor at Ohio State University.
Although the agency said it isn't proposing revisions to regulations for mint and menthol flavors in e-cigarettes at this time, it has to address the impact that menthol has on the public health.
But Horovitz cautioned "there is a question of safety in e-cigarettes because of the presence of propylene glycol, and other as yet unidentified compounds".
Under the proposed rules, retailers selling flavored e-cigarettes would have to display them in a section of the store that's off-limits to anyone under the age of 18.
Gottlieb said the FDA would firm up a policy on e-cigarette sales in the coming weeks to months.
The move against flavored e-cigarettes stops short of the full ban that had been expected from the agency.
Shares of tobacco companies fell.
Since a year ago, the number of middle- and high-schoolers using e-cigarettes has exploded from 2.1 million to 3.6 million, according to Gottlieb, who called it an "epidemic". "That's what kids do.' Not true", Koval said. He indicated that he still hoped e-cigarettes could help some adults to quit smoking, but not at the cost of creating a new generation of nicotine users. If current efforts do not succeed, he's willing to take more steps later, he said.
Menthol cigarettes, which contain a minty compound that reduces the harshness of smoke and suppresses coughing, were widely marketed starting in the 1950s and 1960s.
The e-cigarettes measures will probably face little opposition, but Gottlieb "has guts" to pursue a menthol prohibition because it will draw political and legal fire from the tobacco industry and its supporters, Warner said.
Murray Garnick, Altria's general counsel, said the company expects that establishing product standards on menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars "will be a multi-year, deliberative process". The AP is exclusively responsible for all content.