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FDA authorizes first e-cigarettes in US, says benefits outweigh the risks

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Health officials on Tuesday authorized the first electronic cigarettes in the U.S., saying the R.J. Reynolds vaping products can benefit adult smokers.

In September, the agency said it had rejected applications for more than a million e-cigarettes and related products. But regulators delayed making decisions on most of the major vaping companies, including market leader Juul. Tuesday’s decision is part of a sweeping effort by the FDA to bring scientific scrutiny to the multibillion-dollar vaping industry after years of delays.

The FDA’s decision only applies to Vuse’s refillable Solo Power device and its tobacco-flavored nicotine cartridges. The FDA said it rejected 10 other requests from the company for other flavored products, but did not disclose details. The agency is still reviewing the company’s request to sell a menthol-flavored nicotine formula.

E-cigarettes first appeared in the U.S. more than a decade ago with the promise of providing smokers with a less harmful alternative to smoking traditional tobacco cigarettes. The devices heat a nicotine solution in a vapor that’s inhaled.

But there has been little rigorous study of whether e-cigarettes truly help smokers quit. And efforts by the FDA to begin vetting vaping products and their claims were repeatedly slowed by industry lobbying and competing political interests.

In recent years, the vaping market grew to include hundreds of companies selling an array of devices and nicotine solutions in various flavors and strengths. But the vast majority of the market is controlled by a few companies including Juul Labs, which is partially owned by Altria, and Vuse (Newsmax).

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