It looks like a cigarette, tastes like a cigarette, and provides the same nicotine buzz, but the electronic cigarette is a far cry from traditional smokes: for one thing, this battery-powered gadget is practically carcinogen-free.
But while users call this product a "miracle" and a "lifesaver," health authorities are wary of e-cigarettes and already several states, including New Jersey, New York, and New Hampshire, have made moves to ban them.
The e-cigarette uses an internal atomizer to vaporize nicotine, offering a smokeless, odorless, experience that manufacturers say eliminates the many health problems associated with lighting up.
Affordable and readily available online by adults and minors alike, some argue that this product, which comes in flavors like chocolate or apple, is just another way for teens to get hooked on nicotine.
Public health organizations, including the Food and Drug Administration, National Cancer Society, and American Lung Association, have publically denounced the unregulated device as potentially unsafe, but that hasn't stopped thousands of smokers from going electronic.
Citing lack of research, health authorities have been quick to speak out against e-cigarettes.
The American Cancer Society, Cancer Action Network, American Lung Association and others said in a statement on the product that "absent scientific evidence, these claims…that they are safer than normal cigarettes ... are in blatant in violation of FDA rules."
And suspicions about these unregulated devices are not unfounded. The FDA survey of e-cigarettes found that one brand, Smoking Everywhere, contained diethylene glycol, a toxic chemical found in anti-freeze.
The marketing of these e-cigarettes has also been controversial. The main selling point for some advertisements is that you can puff on e-cigarettes in places that would normally ban smoking such as the office, restaurants, even airplanes.
And this is certainly a draw for most users: one California man, who wished to remain anonymous, is able to use his in the bathroom of the hospital where he works without detection.
The potential for subjecting non-smokers to the vapor of e-cigarettes led Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights to rally for bans on using them in public places:
"We don't know if the vapor is truly safe. We just don't know that much about e-cigarettes. For every environment that's already smoke-free, we believe it should be e-cigarette free," says Cynthia Hallet, executive director.
The ease of concealing an e-cigarette habit (no smoke, no smell) may also make the product more appealing to teens, some argue, and certain brands of e-cigarettes have also been accused of marketing to kids by offering candy-like flavors such as chocolate, cherry, mocha, or almond.
Though he doesn't know any teens who have latched onto the habit, Dr. Petros Levounis, director of the Addiction Institute of New York, says that "there is definitely reason for concern here."
Because teens can get them online by pretending to satisfy the age restrictions many brands place on their websites, "I wouldn't be surprised if this becomes a problem," he says.