WASHINGTON — The Food and Drug Administration issued a much-anticipated policy on Wednesday designed to restrict how and where flavored e-cigarettes are sold — an effort to combat what the agency’s commissioner has called “an epidemic” of underage vaping.

The initiative, a top priority of departing FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, would limit sales of fruity and kid-friendly vaping products to stores that bar minors or have separate adult-only sections. And it says online sellers must tighten age verification and curb bulk sales.

The agency said that companies that violate those conditions would be subject to enforcement actions — including having their products ordered off the market.

Gottlieb also moved up by one year — to August 2021 — the deadline for flavored e-cigarette companies to submit product applications for FDA approval to remain on the market. The sales restrictions and new deadline would apply to a vast array of e-cigarette products, including those offered in flavors such as cherry, bubble gum and cotton candy.

“We’re exceedingly concerned about the spike in the use of these products,” said Gottlieb.

The agency chief has said the new policy would make it difficult for convenience stores and gas stations to continue to sell the specified flavors and predicted that some flavored products will no longer be sold.

The new policy would not apply to mint, menthol and tobacco flavors unless those products were being sold in a way that targeted minors, the agency said. E-cigarette advocates say those products are most often used by adult smokers trying to quit, but anti-tobacco groups are skeptical of the claim.

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