AUSTIN, Texas - Vaping, the use of electronic cigarette products, has gone from an early fad to a big business; $2-billion by some estimates. It's grown in popularity because of people like Rodney Hanz. He made the switch from tobacco to vapor last year.
"This is the way to go because this tastes a lot better. The tobacco doesn't taste good anymore," said Hanz, who was not aware of new efforts to regulate vapor products.
At least 10 bills have been filed by Texas lawmakers to regulate the growing e-cigarette industry. The majority of those bills outlaw sales to minors- and are supported by a key player in the vapor business.
"41 other states have already taken steps to establish minimum age of purchase of e vapor, we'd like Texas to do so as well, and we'll be advocating for that this session," said David Sutton, a Senior Manager with Altria.
Altria is the parent company of tobacco giant Philip Morris and the e-cigarette brand NuMark. Sutton is quick to point out their support of new regulations does not include putting a sin tax on vapor products like the one on cigarettes.
"These products are not like cigarettes and should not be taxed like cigarettes," said Sutton.
The FDA may finalize new rules for vapor products later this year. But earlier this week, the California Department of Public Health went ahead and declared e- cigarettes a health threat that should be regulated like tobacco products.
There are conflicting studies about how safe vapor products may or may not be. Because that issue hasn't been settled yet by the FDA - Sutton believes local governments should stop adding vapor use to public smoking bans.
"We don't think it's appropriate to go ahead and take further steps until the agency has the opportunity to do its job," said Sutton.
Owners of independent vapor shops, which specialize in mixing different flavors and nicotine levels, are also keeping a close watch on the regulatory process. Some fear the new rules could dramatically increase cost and put them out of business.