E-Cigarettes Face Tough New Restrictions

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Morning Money Memo:

The debate over e-cigarettes is heating up. Los Angeles has joined New York and Chicago, becoming the latest big city to approve new restrictions. By a 14-0 vote the L.A. City Council outlawed "vaping" - inhaling e-cigarette vapors - at most public places, including parks and some beaches. Council members defeated a proposal to allowing vaping in "bars and nightclubs.

The push for regulations is a threat to the rapidly growing e-cigarette industry. Sales of e-cigarettes reached $1.5 billion in 2013, according to an analysis by Bloomberg News. Altria, Lorillard and other producers have marketed e-cigarettes as a healthier alternative to smoking. But industry critics say they are a gateway for teens and others to try cigarettes.

General Motors' new CEO Mary Barra is also taking a strong personal interest in consumer safety, leading an internal review of the company's practices after an embarrassing recall of 1.6 million older small cars. GM last week doubled the number of cars included in a global recall over faulty ignition switches that have been linked to 13 deaths. The company issued a rare apology for the slow response and admitted it knew of the problem a decade ago. Barra says GM's reputation will be determined by how the company handles the problem.

A bank specializing in bitcoins says it shut down after computer hackers robbed its digital currency. The closure of the Flexcoin bank comes just a week after the collapse of Mt. Gox, a major bitcoin exchange. Mt. Gox also said it was the victim of an electronic heist. Flexcoin says 896 bitcoins were stolen from its online vault. That translates into a loss of about $600,000, based on the current trading value. Unlike banks dealing in government-backed currencies, Flexcoin's losses aren't covered by deposit insurance.

It was a major relief rally. Stock averages had their best day of the year so far. The S&P opens this morning at a record high after gaining 1 1/2 percent Tuesday. The Nasdaq is at a 14-year high. The belief on financial markets is that the worst of the crisis over Ukraine and the threat of a broader Russian invasion may be over. Asian stocks rose overnight as tensions appeared to ease.

China's government is promising a series of changes to promote competition and economic growth by opening state-run industries to private investment and making banks more market oriented. China's top economic official says more consumer spending will be encouraged. Chinese authorities say they want to keep this year's growth target at 7.5 percent.

Richard Davies Business Correspondent ABC News Radio Twitter: daviesnow

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