Electronic cigarettes are an $80 billion industry one local company is cashing in on, while at the same time helping wean smokers off traditional cigarettes.
Just ask John Johnson, who's a richer man than he was two months ago. His switch to electronic cigarettes has saved him $155 so far, but more importantly, he says that after smoking for 38 years, it's given him his health back.
"I tried the patch, I tried the gum, I even tried this program that was offered to us by my job, and nothing worked," Johnson said. "I mean, I still had that urge."
He is one of many people quitting traditional tobacco and turning instead to electronic cigarettes, which have become hugely popular among folks trying to quit smoking. They're a new product, but national sales have doubled every year since 2008.
Local company Vapor Nine has seen that growth.
"A lot of people are switching over from smoking regular cigarettes to vaping instead," said Jeffrey Woods, of Vapor Nine. "It's a lot healthier. You're not getting carcinogens, you're not getting the tar."
The company has one store in Riverside and another opening at the beach. It plans to have a total of 50 stores within five years. Apparently, business is booming, and they're getting rich because its cheap.
The smokeable nicotine vapor is inexpensive to make, and for the buyer, the electronic cigarettes cost a fraction of what a carton would cost.
"Every two days I take $5 and I put it in my piggy bank, and I will see my savings at the end of the year," Johnson said.
Inside is nicotine, vegetable oil and flavoring mixed with a vaporizer. Woods said there are no carcinogens or tar. Doctors say smokers still have some diminished lung capacity, but overall, Johnson says, it's a better option than the real thing.
"I'm at that stage of it being more or less psychological, and my jogging has increased, my stamina has increased," Johnson said.
The healthiest option is simply not smoking.