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California bill would ban e-cigarettes in bars, public buildings

Julia Boyle enjoys an electronic cigarette at the Vapor Shark store on February 20, 2014 in Miami, Florida. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

A California state lawmaker has introduced legislation that would ban the use of increasingly popular electronic cigarettes in public spaces.

SB140 by Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, would classify the devices that heat liquid nicotine into vapor as tobacco products similar to cigarettes. That would prohibit Californians from using the devices in restaurants, buses, hospitals and other places they cannot smoke.

"No tobacco product should be exempt from California's smoke-free laws simply because it's sold in a modern or trendy disguise," Leno said in a statement. "Addiction is what's really being sold."

Public health advocates are pushing to regulate the fast-growing market while e-cigarette safety research is in early stages. Many studies on the health risks and long-term effects of using electronic cigarettes, known as vaping, have not been completed.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is pursuing the first national regulation of e-cigarettes, including health warning labels and approval over products before they are sold.

E-cigarette makers tout their products as an alternative to traditional smoking.

Gregory Conley, president of the American Vaping Association, which advocates for e-cigarettes, said in a statement that the bill is part of a "misinformation campaign by activist groups that seek to frighten California smokers away from using low-risk vapor products, with the end result being that many will simply continue to smoke."

SB140 is likely to face opposition from tobacco groups that have successfully blocked similar legislation in California. A bill introduced in 2013 to restrict public vaping was watered down to a proposal to ban e-cigarette vending machine sales. That still failed to pass the Legislature. California banned the sale of e-cigarettes to minors in 2010.

The American Heart Association and American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network are among the groups hoping to create more stringent e-cigarette restrictions.