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E-cigarettes evaluated: Are they worth it?

April 3, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
More than 45 million Americans smoke, but many are trying to quit. One way that's gaining in popularity is the use of electronic, or e-cigarettes. But a lot of people wonder if they're effective.

Chris Mikovits was a cigarette smoker for 25 years, but two years ago, he was finally able to stop smoking - tobacco cigarettes, that is. Now, he uses what he calls a personal vaporizer.

"I've tried everything there was out there to quit. With this, it was more like switching. I didn't have to completely knock out the habits and the rituals that I had," Mikovits said.

Made to look and feel like traditional cigarettes, e-cigarettes are battery-operated electronic devices that deliver vaporized nicotine without the tar, smoke and tobacco found in regular cigarettes.

Jamie Kopf of Consumer Reports took a look at the studies and says some suggest they might be a last resort for smokers who've tried quitting and failed.

"A recent study in the journal Tobacco Control found that methods like the nicotine patch and gum aren't as effective as we once thought," Kopf said.

However, Consumer Reports says e-cigarettes, which are sold largely online but in stores too, have not been approved by the FDA, so safety is a major concern.

"E-cigarettes vary widely, and it's unclear exactly which chemicals, other than nicotine, are in these devices. And nicotine itself is extremely addictive and can cause harm, too," Kopf said.

Consumer Reports says another concern is that e-cigarettes could actually lead to smoking the real thing. That's because these devices are easily available online to minors, and they come in enticing flavors like vanilla and pina colada.

"Federal oversight of e-cigarettes is necessary. But for smokers who are having trouble quitting, e-cigarettes just may be the lesser of two evils," she said.


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