MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The FDA is recommending new regulations to limit the sales of flavored e-cigarettes to minors.

One proposal would require fruit and candy-flavored products to be sold in areas where only adults are allowed.

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Some Minnesota cities, including Minneapolis, already have similar measures. Clearway Minnesota estimates there has been a 50 percent increase of e-cigarettes used by minors since 2014.

At the Vaping Studio in downtown Hopkins, store manager Josh Hassing says his store abides by the Minnesota law barring the sale of e-cigs to minors.

“If we have a group of three people, four people, five people that come in, even if only one person is buying something, everyone in that group needs to show an ID,” Hassing said.

He says his store has seen a sharp increase in young people trying to purchase flavored e-cigarette products after Minneapolis passed stricter regulations, including the same type of requirement that the FDA is now proposing: Requiring stores to sell flavored tobacco products and menthol cigarettes in a walled-off area only accessible to adults.

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This Minneapolis store is on 31st Street in south Minneapolis. In Hopkins, Hassing insists many of his customers who buy the candy-flavored blends are not kids

“We have seen that a lot of people who were in their 30s, 40s and 50s, 60s-plus realize the tobacco flavors are leading them back to cigarettes,” Hassing said. “Whereas they take a shot out of left field and get a fruit flavor or a bakery flavor, and that helps them kick the cigarettes.”

But at Clearway Minnesota, a group funded by Minnesota’s 20-year-old landmark tobacco settlement, officials say the FDA move is badly-needed.

“We certainly are in support of these regulations that the FDA would be putting in, mostly because it would really help youth from becoming addicted to nicotine,” Michael Sheldon of Clearway Minnesota said.

The FDA also proposes a ban on menthol cigarettes, which studies have found are especially popular with African-Americans.

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The proposals for both traditional menthol cigarettes and the e-cig proposals would have to clear regulatory hurdles, which could take up to two years.

Esme Murphy