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US proposes 1st set of federal regulations over e-cigarettes

WASHINGTON--The U.S. government wants to ban sales of electronic cigarettes to minors and require approval for new products and health warning labels under regulations being proposed by the federal Food and Drug Administration.

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

The industry started on the Internet and at shopping-mall kiosks and has rocketed from thousands of users in 2006 to several million worldwide who can choose from more than 200 brands. Sales are estimated to have reached nearly US$2 billion in 2013. Tobacco company executives have noted that they are eating into traditional cigarette sales, and their companies have jumped into the business.

The agency said the proposal sets a foundation for regulating the products but the rules don't immediately ban the wide array of flavors of e-cigarettes, curb marketing on places like TV or set product standards.

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.

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

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