The haze around e-cigarettes
Americans are becoming more familiar with e-cigarettes, which are beginning to appear in restaurants, bars and coffeehouses where regular cigarettes have long been banned. An e-cigarette is, in effect, a battery-operated nicotine delivery system that works by heating a mixture of water, nicotine and other chemicals. The user inhales and exhales the resulting vapor rather than smoke.
E-cigarettes look like regular cigarettes and, for many people, substitute for them. But enormous questions remain. Are they a relatively harmless tool that helps people quit, or are they an attractive gateway into smoking for young people? If they're substantially less dangerous than regular cigarettes but substantially more dangerous than not smoking at all, should they be subject to the laws that govern cigarettes on TV advertising, sales to minors and restrictions on smoking?