The long-awaited proposal, which would subject the $2 billion industry to federal regulation for the first time, is not as restrictive as some companies had feared and will likely take years to become fully effective.
Bonnie Herzog, an analyst at Wells Fargo, said the proposal is "positive for industry."
But public health advocates lamented the fact that the proposal does not take aim at e-cigarette advertising or sweetly-flavored products, which they say risk introducing a new generation of young people to conventional cigarettes when little is known about the long-term health impact of the electronic devices.
"It's very disappointing because they don't do anything to rein in the wild-west marketing that is targeting kids," said Stanton Glantz, a professor at the Center of Tobacco Control Research and Education at the University of California, San Francisco.
FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg said at a briefing on Wednesday that the proposal represented the first "foundational" step toward broader restrictions if scientific evidence shows they are needed to protect public health.
The number of teenagers who have tried electronic cigarettes has doubled in the past year, and if the ban is approved, the U.S. would join Britain in prohibiting minors from buying the devices. Image: Electronic cigarette, via Shutterstock