The agency proposed several rules on electronic cigarettes, notably one to restrict access of the battery powered, nicotine infused vapor devices to minors. Makers of e cigarettes would also need to provide health warnings on their products and seek agency approval for the ingredients.

The FDA has strong political winds at its back as it tries to control the young and aggressive e cig industry. Over the past half century, the United States has made tremendous progress in snuffing out a desire among Americans to pick up the habit of ingesting nicotine. The percentage of people who smoke has been cut in half. And among those who do smoke (18 percent), the number of cigarettes consumed per capita has fallen 72 percent.

This success even inspires experts to devise plans for an endgame to the use of tobacco. In 2012, for example, a surgeon general report laid out a Vision for Ending the Tobacco Epidemic. It stated that the US now has the tools such as raising taxes on cigarettes or more nonsmoking zones to rapidly drop the rate of tobacco initiation among youth into the single digits. Such hope for progress represents a shift in thinking about the ability of teens to resist the temptation to take up smoking. While media campaigns still evoke fear of nicotine addiction or tobacco s effects, young people are also seen as able to make long term choices about their well being. Beyond its physical effects, addiction of any kind is demeaning.

The overriding objective in putting an end to tobacco use, stated the 2014 surgeon general report, is to maximize health.

Still, each day more than 3,200 young people under age 18 smoke their first cigarette. Many more these days take up the habit after trying e cigarettes. Over half of the states already ban the sale of e cigarettes to minors. The FDA regulations, if they take effect next year as expected, would further curb these devices, which may often act as a gateway to tobacco use.

The US is behind Europe in regulating e cigarettes. But it is steadily in sync with a few other countries in contemplating a near zero consumption of tobacco or nicotine products. New Zealand aspires to be the first nation to see the number of smokers drop below 5 percent, perhaps by 2025.

For the US to achieve a similar goal, the states would need to boost their nonsmoking and antismoking campaigns. In 2010 they spent only 2.4 percent of their tobacco revenues for control and prevention of tobacco use. The federal government wants them to spend an additional 13 percent, or $3.1 billion.

As a legal battle begins over the FDA proposals for e cigarettes, the larger task of preventing addiction should not be lost. Attitudes have shifted against tobacco related products. Now the endgame is in sight.

Fda looks to regulate e-cigarettes; stem sale to minors

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Electronic cigarettes, battery operated devices that use vapors from a nicotine solution instead of tobacco, face no regulations. They can be sold to minors. They can be offered as free samples. Anyone can make any claim about how safe they are without repercussions.

Soon, though, that may change.

The United States Food and Drug Administration released 67 pages of proposed regulations for e cigarettes last week and now faces a public comment period before any regulations are approved.

The regulations will begin treating the devices as if they were tobacco products That means no sales to minors, no free samples and no claims about health without a scientific study cited.

The Florida Department of Health s Bureau of Tobacco Free Florida called the proposal long overdue.

In a statement, the bureau asked whether smokers were using e cigarettes to quit or to circumvent smoke free indoor air laws and whether e cigarettes were normalizing smoking and nicotine use for teenagers.

Every responsible vape e cigarette shop in this industry has always had a policy of no sales to minors, even prior to any word of legislation, said Ben Hughlett, who owns two New Leaf Vapor Company stores in Riverside and on Beach Boulevard. We see this as a product that adults should have the right to enjoy responsibly, and that part of the responsibility means keeping it away from kids.

Hughlett, who is opening three stores later this year, has a sign in his shop that says We do not sell to minors. Although it isn t regulated yet, we believe it to be good practice.

Clay County was the first in the state s 67 counties to pass an ordinance to ban sales to minors and ban the use of e cigarettes in any place where smoking isn t allowed. The ordinance also limited how stores could display and sell the products.

Though Duval County doesn t have a similar ordinance, a bill regulating e cigarettes passed the Florida Senate and then was amended and passed in the Florida House of Representatives. If the Senate passes the amended version of the bill and the governor signs it, e cigarettes could be regulated in Florida even before the federal drug administration finalizes its regulations.

The bill makes it a misdemeanor crime to give nicotine products, including e cigarettes, to minors.

It does not, though, ban stores from giving free samples like the Food and Drug Administration proposes.

Sampling, Hughlett said, allows people to try different flavors before they buy, and find ones that will work for them. It s part of the vaping experience that customers really enjoy, and something that has helped make it possible for so many smokers to put down traditional cigarettes.

Ronald Coleman, 57, said he s smoked for at least 37 years. He never tried to quit, and he only tried e cigarettes because he wanted to be able to smoke inside and outside. He tried e cigarettes for two weeks and said normal cigarettes didn t feel right anymore.

He said he s fine with banning sales to minors, and he s fine with getting rid of signs like the one in New Leaf s Riverside store that says E cigs are about 1% of the harm caused from smoking analogs.

Everything, he said, comes with a downside. But at least the ashes are gone, the scent is gone and the cost is much cheaper.

Coleman said he can breathe better and he s gained weight since switching to e cigarettes,

Tobacco Free Florida told smokers they ought to wait for reliable scientific evidence before trusting that e cigarettes were indeed safer.

Randy Nobles, 27, has been using e cigarettes for two years, after smoking a pack and a half of Newport cigarettes a day for seven years. He said the cost of using e cigarettes is 20 times cheaper, but he said the proposed regulations are all reasonable.

What the government tells you to do, Nobles said, you have to do.

Andrew Pantazi (904) 359 4310