The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorizes e-cigarettes to remain on the US market for the first time

The Food and Drug Administration, for the first time, on Tuesday allowed e-cigarettes to be sold in the United States, in a significant shift in one of the most contentious public health debates in decades.

In the green light for a tobacco flavored device and cartridges marketed by RJ Reynolds under the brand name Vuse, the agency indicated that it believes that the help some vaping devices provide to smokers to quit traditional cigarettes is more important than the risks of entrapping a new generation.

“Aerosols from authorized products are significantly less toxic than smoldering cigarettes based on available data,” the Food and Drug Administration said in a statement announcing the decision.

The statement concluded, “The US Food and Drug Administration has determined that the potential benefit to smokers who completely or significantly change their cigarette use will outweigh the risks to young adults.”

This watershed decision could pave the way for allowing some other e-cigarettes, including from the once-dominant company Juul, to remain in the market. For more than a year, manufacturers of e-cigarettes have been on hold — their products are on the market but awaiting official permission — as the Food and Drug Administration investigated whether they represented a benefit or a public health risk.

Over the past few months, as part of that review, the agency has ordered thousands of vaping products off the market, including the brand that has surpassed Juul as a teen favorite of fruity and candy flavors, Puff Bars. On Tuesday, the agency also ordered 10 more Vuse-flavored products from the market but declined to say which ones it turned down.

The condemnation of the decision was swift.

“This throws young people under the bus,” said Erica Sward, assistant national vice president for advocacy at the American Lung Association. She said the concern was with the broader rationale in favor of these products but also with Vuse, which in the government’s most recent survey of youth tobacco use was shown to be one of the most popular vaping brands among youth.

Reynolds, owner of Vuse, is one of the world’s largest cigarette companies. Juul is owned by another company, Altria. Ms Sward said the industry that lied about linking generations to a deadly product that has claimed millions of lives is now in a position to control the next iteration of the nicotine market.

“The industry was waiting for the next big thing and they found it with e-cigarettes,” she said.

Kylan Holon, a spokeswoman for Reynolds American, RJR’s parent company, said the decision “represents an important moment for Reynolds” and that it showed the authorized products were “appropriate to protect public health.”

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