The Food and Drug Administration is banning the sale of electronic cigarettes to minors as part of a broad set of regulations the agency finalized Wednesday.
With the rules that were more than two years in the making, the agency is expanding its authority over e-cigarettes, cigars and hookah tobacco, in much the same way it already regulates traditional cigarettes.
In addition to barring sales of tobacco products and e-cigarettes to people under age 18, the FDA would impose other restrictions, including:
The rules also require companies to get FDA approval for any products that were put on the market after Feb. 15, 2007. Also, e-cigarette makers will have to go back to the agency within two years for approval of the products they already sell.
E-cigarettes consist of plastic or metal tubes that contain a heating element that vaporizes a liquid solution containing nicotine.
The popularity of "vaping" has grown in recent years. The FDA says about 16 percent of high school students used e-cigarettes in 2015.
Some have welcomed the devices as an alternative to traditional cigarettes, whose dangers are well-known, and as an aid to help smokers quit.
In the U.K., for example, the Royal College of Physicians in April embraced e-cigarettes as a way to reduce smoking, which the group says is far more dangerous. "In the interests of public health it is important to promote the use of e-cigarettes," the group said in a statement released April 28.
The industry trade group has pressed that point. E-cigarettes "provide smokers with a viable path to reducing their tobacco consumption and quitting altogether," said Tony Abboud, national legislative director of the Vapor Technology Association, the trade group for e-cigarette makers.
Others fear the devices will addict nonsmokers to nicotine and eventually lead to more people smoking.
Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell nodded to that concern in a statement released with the new rules that said use of e-cigarettes has risen as traditional smoking has declined. "All of this is creating a new generation of Americans who are at risk of addiction," she said.
The FDA had previously attempted to regulate e-cigarettes, but that effort was thwarted in court.
Public health advocates such as the American Lung Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics welcomed the new rules.