(UNDATED) - E-cigarettes seem to be emerging everywhere, and so far there is no regulation at the federal and most local and state levels.
In 2003, a Chinese pharmacist invented the e-cigarette as an alternative to smoking. Instead of lighting up traditional tobacco-filled cigarettes, smokers use a battery-powered device to inhale nicotine in the form of a vapor.
The process known as "vaping" has been sold to consumers as a healthier alternative to regular cigarettes.
As more studies of vapor and its second-hand effects are conducted, more municipalities and states are considering bans. Forty-four states across the country do not currently include e-cigarettes in their smoke-free laws, according to research done by the American Lung Association.
They are banned wherever regular smoking is prohibited in New Jersey and North Dakota.
A bill in California being considered would require e-cigarettes to be regulated as a tobacco product and be included in existing smoke-free laws. Lawmakers in two other states, Massachusetts and Connecticut, are considering laws that would do the same.
In mid-December, New York City council members passed a similar law, putting e-cigarettes under the same regulation as regular cigarettes. Los Angeles and Chicago have passed similar laws.
Stanton Glantz, professor of medicine at the University of California, said he supports the passage of the bill in California. Glantz told reporters California should mandate that people cannot use an e-cigarette where traditional cigarettes are banned.
But many users argue e-cigarettes are a better choice than tobacco cigarettes.
Christine Gentry smoked at home, in the car and at her job in a casino until she started using e-cigarettes. And she has not gone back.
"It doesn't smell bad," said Gentry. "It's much cheaper. No yellow teeth."
Gentry is the chief operating officer of Vapure, a San Diego-based e-cigarette company with seven stores. The company's store in Mission Valley, north of San Diego, is inside a regular office building.
It was busy during the entire interview with Gentry.
She said they do not sell e-cigarettes as a smoking cessation device, though she said many customers turn to the product to quit smoking regular tobacco cigarettes.
"If they ask us, we tell them there are over 4,000 chemicals in a cigarette and they are hundreds of dollars a month," Gentry said. "In electronic cigarettes, there are four ingredients. We make it ourselves and the price is a fraction of the cost."
She said those ingredients are pharmaceutical-grade nicotine like found in the patch, vegetable glycerin, propylene glycol and flavorings for the refill liquid made by food-grade companies.
Glantz, a medical professor described how e-cigarettes work.
"The way an e-cigarette works is it heats up a mixture of nicotine, propylene glycol and other chemicals and that heated mixture becomes an aerosol which is inhaled deeply into your lungs to deliver the addictive drug nicotine," he said.
He and other critics believe e-cigarettes do not help people quit smoking because users reportedly use e-cigarettes and cigarettes at the same time.
"About 80 percent of people who use e-cigarettes keep smoking regular cigarettes," Glantz said.
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