Tobacco company executives have noted that they are eating into traditional cigarette sales. Their companies have jumped into the business.
There’s not much scientific evidence showing e-cigarettes help smokers quit or smoke less, and it’s unclear how safe they are.
The FDA is likely to propose restrictions that mirror those on regular cigarettes.
The most likely of the FDA’s actions will be to ban the sale of e-cigarettes to people under 18. Many companies already restrict sales to minors, and more than two dozen states already have banned selling them to young people.
Federal regulators also are expected to set product standards and require companies to disclose their ingredients and place health warning labels on packages and other advertising.
Where the real questions remain is how the agency will treat the thousands of flavors available for e-cigarettes. While some companies are limiting offerings to tobacco and menthol flavors, others are selling candy-like flavors like cherry and strawberry.
Flavors other than menthol are banned for regular cigarettes over concerns that flavored tobacco targets children.
Regulators also must determine if they’ll treat various designs for electronic cigarettes differently.
Some, known as “cig-a-likes,” look like traditional cigarettes and use sealed cartridges that hold liquid nicotine. Others have empty compartments or tanks that users can fill their own liquid. The latter has raised safety concerns because ingesting the liquid or absorbing it through the skin could lead to nicotine poisoning. To prevent that, the FDA could mandate child-resistant packaging.
The FDA also will decide the grandfather date that would allow electronic cigarette products to remain on the market without getting prior approval from regulators — a ruling that could force some, if not all, e-cigarettes to be pulled from store shelves while they are evaluated by the agency.