TODAY   |  April 24, 2014

FDA moves to ban e-cigarette sales to minors

The Food and Drug Administation says it’s taking the first steps towards regulating e-cigarettes, which are booming in popularity, by moving to ban sales to minors. NBC’s Tom Costello reports.

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which are booming in popularity. the fda says it is taking the first steps toward regulating. tom costello is in washington with the details. hi, tom.

>> reporter: hi, matt. good morning. a lot of people think e-cigarettes provide a much healthier alternative for people trying to quit smoking tobacco, but the fda says it simply doesn't know enough about these cigarettes to know if that's true. now it's proposing the first regulations for e cigarettes. it's the latest fad for anyone looking to get a nicotine fix. those are battery powered water vapors not tobacco smoke kband with a massive celebrity marketing blitz.

>> i love being single but here is what i don't love, a kiss that tastes like an ashtray.

>> reporter: e-cigarette sales have caught fire. $2 billion last year and growing, all of it without government oversight . but now the fda 's proposed regulations would put e-cigarettes in the same class as tobacco, prohibiting sales to anyone under 18, requiring clear health warning labels and no vending machine sales.

>> at the present time the fda does not have the authority to regulate e-cigarettes, and some characterized it frequently as the wild, wild west . certainly, we feel that at the present time it is, let the buyer beware .

>> reporter: health experts are especially concerned that 2 million middle and high school kids have already tried e-cigarettes, including joshua short, who switched from smoking tobacco .

>> it's a nice feeling compared to a cigarette, because a cigarette when you're smoking it you feel dirty.

>> reporter: e-cigarette makers insist they don't market to young people and claim this is an attractive option to smokers looking to quit.

>> smokers historically have looked for alternatives, whether it is smokeless tobacco , cigars, or patches or gum and electronic cigarettes, you know, really satisfied many of the four points of addiction.

>> reporter: the question for the fda , what health risks, if any, e-cigarettes actually pose. it could take months, maybe even a year for these initial rules to take effect. importantly, they do not ban flavored e-cigarettes, which many believe only are meant to attract young people . they do not ban online sales or tv commercials , but the fda again says it still has a lot to learn about e-cigarettes. back to you.

>> tom costello, thank you very