And as for the idea that e-smoking can be a gateway to more hardcore tobacco use, especially among young people, Kiklas dismissed these claims as irresponsible and misleading. He said that e-cigarettes were regulated by the FDA as tobacco products and as such, companies are forbidden to advertise or market them to children.
"I defy you to name one e-cigarette company that targets minors," he said.
Coming in such flavors as Captain Crunch, Fruit Loops and Bubble Gum, e-cigarettes seem clearly designed to appeal to young people, many health experts say.
"When you see these flavors, it's pretty obvious that these flavors could be attractive to kids, said Vince Willmore, a spokesman for the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids.
Willmore also said that many of the tactics used to market e-cigarettes are the same as what the tobacco companies have used to market cigarettes to kids.
"They have ads that use celebrities, race car sponsorships -- they have even used cartoons," Willmore said. "They don't do this to just appeal to adult smokers, who they say are their main targets."
E-smoking among young people is on the rise. A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study found that nearly 1.8 million young people had tried e-cigarettes, and that the number of U.S. middle and high school student e-smokers doubled between 2011 and 2012. Levine said that up until last week, it was legal to sell e-cigarettes out of ice cream trucks in Los Angeles.
Choucair said the increase in e-smoking raises alarms, considering the products have only been available for a short time. He said the reason for Chicago's proposed ban on their use in public places is to protect people, particularly young people, until there is conclusive evidence either way regarding the safety of the product.
Such restrictions make sense for now, Kiklas said, because they mirror other tobacco product related policies, though he opposes any outright bans. He believes that as people understand the technology better, public opinion will evolve.
"They will come to view this as an innocuous product with nothing in the vapor that is harmful or dangerous to humans," he said.
Whether electronic cigarettes will help people quit smoking or lower their risk of tobacco-related diseases remains to be seen.
In the meantime, lung cancer remains the single greatest threat to the health of smokers, according to the American Cancer Society. In the United States, tobacco use is responsible for nearly one in five deaths, or 443,000 early deaths, each year.
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