FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) --There are nearly 4 million cigarette smokers in California, and on Thursday, the state assembly passed a number of bills hoping to restrict access and help break the habit. Vape shops and cigarette stores all have signs saying "18 and older" plastered on their doors. Soon, you'll have to be even older to get in.
The popularity of vaping keeps spreading-- new stores keep opening. And owner Adam Wooddy said Tower District business keeps booming. "This is kind of a nice place for people out in Tower District who aren't of the age to drink, this is a place they can come and hang out."
But this Thursday the future of the e-cigarettes industry in California started looking hazy. The state assembly approved a series of bills that would raise the minimum smoking age from 18 to 21. It would also treat e-cigs as tobacco products. "The biggest thing that's frustrating, is that, they are trying to lump vaping and smoking into the same category of tobacco. And there is absolutely no tobacco in e-juice," said Wooddy.
Not only would the vaporizers be banned from restaurants, theatres, and other public places teens will also have to wait until they are 21 to buy them from a store. Health experts said the move is long overdue. "It's a breakthrough on a lot of different levels in terms of exposure of secondhand smoke, access to minors, in terms of tobacco products," said Alan Gilmore, Madera County Health Department.
Medical studies show a majority of adult smokers start before the age of 21. Luis Moreno is part of that statistic and said he wishes the age had been raised when he was a kid. "I play with my children or something, and I run out of breath sometimes and that's when I think it's getting to me and I wanna stop."
Vapor store owners said tougher regulations will limit options for those thinking of quitting. "Now they don't have this alternative to get them off tobacco, and even taper down their nicotine to get them off vaping," said Wooddy.
But some believe e-cigs are causing more problems than they solve. "It creates a new pathway for young people to start using tobacco products," said Gilmore.
The debate expected to continue as the bills reach the senate next Monday.
If these bills are passed California would become the second state, after Hawaii, to raise the smoking age.