E cigarettes offer the sensation of smoking, without burning tobacco. These battery operated devices heat up liquid nicotine and turn it into vapor. Users say they re a lot safer than smoking cigarettes. But public health experts aren t so sure.

At Vapor Craze, an e cigarette shop across from San Diego State, Jeff Pascua puffs away. Or, as he calls it, vapes.

Every few moments, Pascua reloads his e cigarette from a small plastic bottle.

“It s called the e liquid juice,” Pascua said. “Two types VG and PG. Vegetable glyceride, and then propylene, I can t pronounce that.”

Pascua used to smoke cigarettes. Then he heard about e cigarettes and decided to give them a try.

Pascua said vaping helps him curb his cravings for a real smoke.

“It s just there when I need that feeling, you know? Breaking a habit is hard to do,” Pascua explained.

Vapor Craze sells more than two dozen flavors of e liquid juice. Pascua prefers the banana walnut flavor known as Monkey Business. He s knows the juice contains nicotine, but he s not worried about it.

“From what I ve read and seen and heard people talk about, nicotine is just like caffeine good in moderation,” Pascua said. “I m not saying everyone should do it, but, in moderation it s not harmful enough, you know?”

There are a number of different types of vaping products. Starter kits can cost as little as $30. High end devices with digital readouts can run in the hundreds.

Vapor Craze worker Vance Pope loves vaping. With every vape he takes, he blows out smoke that looks like car exhaust on a cold day. Pope thinks his job selling vaping stuff is awesome.

“Because I feel like I m changing lives. Getting people off cigarettes and changing the actual notion, of the look, or the feel of actually smoking,” Pope said.

Before discovering vaping, Pope was a two pack a day smoker. And now?

“It s just such a positive attitude that I face around other people, by not smoking at all,” he said. “And I don t get the little snickers of wow, your clothes stink, or, that kind of thing, or, you stink, dude! You know, it s a great feeling.”

E cigarettes were invented in China. They were introduced in the U.S. in 2006. Since then, e cigarettes have become a multibillion dollar industry.

But unlike tobacco products, e cigarettes aren t regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. As a result, ads featuring sexy, scantily clad women touting e cigarettes are all over TV. Some argue these ads target children.

The Centers for Disease Control reported 1.8 million teens used e cigarettes last year. That s a 100 percent increase from the previous year. Word on the street is, e cigarettes are sort of cool, and high tech. The big question is Are they safe?

Dr. Thomas Novotny, a former U.S. assistant surgeon general and professor at the San Diego State University School of Public Health, said the jury is still out.

“We don t really know what the hazards are, because the research hasn t been done,” he said. “I think the biggest hazard is nicotine addiction, and the normalization of smoking, I mean, the re normalization of it. And this is really disturbing, because it s taken us decades to get smoking to be less than socially acceptable and to be restricted in public places, so that people are free from the exposure, and also to sort of reduce the uptake of smoking by kids.

In the absence of federal regulations, four states and the District of Columbia have included e cigarettes in their indoor smoking bans. California is said to be considering similar action.

Vista has become the first city in San Diego County to ban e cigarettes wherever smoking is prohibited, and the Carlsbad City Council passed a similar measure on Tuesday.

Vista City Councilman Cody Campbell says it s the right thing to do.

“Basically we re saying that it s not OK to encourage youth in our communities to choose this product, and basically become addicted,” Campbell said.

The Sweetwater Union High School District is ahead of the curve, too. Communications director Manuel Rubio said in October the South Bay district added e cigarettes to its ban on tobacco products on campuses and at all student events.

We had a couple of instances at our campuses, where students were bringing them to school, they were showing them to their friends, and they were playing with them,” Rubio said. “And we just thought, you know what, before it becomes a bigger issue, why not take a step out there, and do the right thing for kids.

Back at Vapor Craze, Vance Pope doesn t buy the arguments against e cigarettes. He said flavors like sugar daddy and juicy booty aren t designed for kids. After all, his store doesn t let kids under 18 buy e cigarettes.

“But as long as they re 18, I feel like that s their choice,” Pope said.

The FDA has developed some rules on e cigarettes, but hasn t made them public yet.

Officials say the White House is reviewing the proposal.

Why cvs stopped selling cigarettes (cvs)

The rest of the story: tobacco news analysis and commentary

CVS’s (NYSE CVS ) decision to stop selling cigarettes in the United States as of Oct. 1 may be a move designed to help the company grow its in store clinics.

With the U.S. government projecting that health care spending will rise to 20% of GDP, as reported by Bloomberg, CVS, Wal Mart (NYSE WMT ) , Walgreen (NYSE WAG ) , Rite Aid (NYSE RAD ) , and other smaller players are rapidly opening health clinics in their stores. These clinics, which offer basic health services including flu shots and other medical procedures that usually require visiting a doctor, represent a growing opportunity for the chain.

“Health care is becoming more decentralized, and consumers are getting more choices about where to get care, whether that’s a retail clinic or a traditional hospital,” said Vaughn Kauffman, a principal in PriceWaterhouseCooper’s Health Industries practice, in The Washington Post. “As we’re out there talking to companies that are in retail, they see big opportunity here and are looking for ways to give consumers more convenient options.”

More clinics to come

Health care spending is on the rise partially due to the improving economy and partially due to the people who are gaining health insurance through the Affordable Care Act. And though CVS sells other unhealthy products, tobacco may be the most harmful and least consistent with presenting a healthy image. According to the Centers for Disease Control, “smoking is the leading cause of preventable death and illness in the United States and causes an estimated 443,000 deaths a year in the nation.”

Offering tobacco products next to what is essentially a doctor’s office is sort of like having your Weight Watchers meeting at a Pizza Hut. CVS still offers lots of ways for customers to harm themselves (sugar and, in some markets, alcohol being the obvious ones), but removing smoking might allow for expansion of the chain’s 750 Minute Clinics (as it calls its walk in health centers).

Currently, CVS has a number of contracts with hospitals and health insurers to provide patient care in many cases during evening and weekend hours when traditional doctors’ offices are closed. “CVS could now strike deals with more traditional health care providers that might involve a financial bonus if the pharmacy helps reduce smoking rates among patients,” according to The Washington Post article cited above.

The chain reported in its 2012 annual report that it already has deals with 250 commercial and government health plans. (The company does not break out financial results for the clinics in its quarterly or annual reports.)

“CVS Caremark is continually looking for ways to promote health and reduce the burden of disease,” said CVS Chief Medical Officer Troyen A. Brennan, M.D. “Stopping the sale of cigarettes and tobacco will make a significant difference in reducing the chronic illnesses associated with tobacco use.”

Candy, alcohol appear safe

When CVS announced it would drop cigarettes at its 7,600 locations in the United States earlier this month, the next logical question was whether the chain would similarly remove other unhealthy items from its shelves. It seems, however, that the company’s concerns for the nation’s health only extend so far.

“The decision to stop selling tobacco products underscores our role in the evolving health care system. Smoking is the leading cause of premature illness and death in the United States. Unlike those other products, which are OK in moderation, no amount of tobacco use is safe,” said CVS spokesman Danielle Marcus in an email interview with the Fool.

Health care is a bigger business than smoking

While CVS may very well be ending the sale of cigarettes in its stores for purely benevolent reasons (and politicians may be saying what you want to hear because they actually believe it), expanded clinics are simply a bigger business than cigarettes.

Health insurance provider Aetna examined the rising cost of health care and found “total health care spending in the United States is expected to reach $4.8 trillion in 2021, up from $2.6 trillion in 2010 and $75 billion in 1970.” It’s a big pie that’s growing bigger, and CVS is eagerly sticking its fingers in.

Dropping cigarette sales, CVS said in a press release, would cost the company $2 billion in 2014, but while health care spending is rising, health officials expect cigarette smoking to continue to fall perhaps even to zero. Acting U.S. Surgeon General Boris Lushniak last month released a 980 page report on smoking that pushed for stepped up tobacco control measures.

“I can’t accept that we’re just allowing these numbers to trickle down,” he said in a recent interview with the AP as reported by the Denver Post. “We believe we have the public health tools to get us to the zero level.”