WASHINGTON (NEWSnet/AP) — The Food and Drug Administration on Friday authorized the first menthol-flavored electronic cigarettes for adult smokers.

The FDA said it authorized four menthol e-cigarettes from Njoy, the vaping brand recently acquired by tobacco giant Altria, which also sells Marlboro cigarettes.

The decision lends new credibility to vaping companies’ longstanding claim that their products can help blunt the toll of smoking, which is blamed for 480,000 U.S. deaths annually due to cancer, lung disease and heart disease.

E-cigarettes have been sold in the U.S. since 2007 but in recent years their potential benefits for smokers have been overshadowed by their use by adolescents and teens.

Altria’s data showed Njoy e-cigarettes helped smokers reduce their exposure to the harmful chemicals in traditional cigarettes, the FDA said. The agency stressed the products are neither safe nor “FDA approved,” and that people who don’t smoke shouldn’t use them.

Parents and anti-tobacco groups immediately criticized the decision, which follows years of advocacy efforts to keep menthol and other flavors that can appeal to teens off the market.

Youth vaping has declined from all-time highs in recent years, with about 10% of high schoolers reporting e-cigarette use last year. Of those who vaped, 90% used flavors, including menthol.

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