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E-Cigarettes: The Good, The Bad & The Smokey

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The inventor of the electronic cigarette, Hon Lik smokes his invention in Beiijng on May 25, 2009. (FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)

The inventor of the electronic cigarette, Hon Lik smokes his invention in Beiijng on May 25, 2009. (FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)

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NEW YORK (CBS 2) – As more cities ban smoking, diehards are looking for a new way to feed their nicotine habit – and they may have found it.

E-cigarettes look just like the real thing, but with key differences, both good and potentially bad.

“I can smoke it anywhere, and no one can say anything to me about it,” e-cigarette user Maria Rogic said.

Despite her employers’ strict non-smoking policy, Rogic can often be found holding a cigarette – an electronic one, that is. It’s tobacco-free, and runs on a battery.

“My skin is better, I feel better,” Rogic said. “I can go up the stairs and not be out of breath.”

Thousands share her enthusiasm, and suppliers say sales are soaring, but not everyone is crazy about the e-cigarettes.

“We’re deeply concerned that these products are being sold in shopping malls, with flavors that directly appeal to kids,” Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said.

The e-cigarette works using liquid nicotine and other chemicals in a cartridge, turning them into a thick, odor-less vapor.

The flavors of e-liquids range from apple and blueberry to cotton candy and chocolate.

Anti-smoking advocate Dr. Michael Siegel, though, said studies show kids still favor traditional cigarettes. One big reason is because e-cigarettes are expensive.

“They cost between $90 and $120 to buy the starter pack, and most kids walking around do not have $90 that they can just spring out to buy these things,” Dr. Siegel, a professor at the Boston University School of Public Health, said.

The Food and Drug Administration said it’s worried, though, because e-cigarettes are not currently submitted for safety evaluations. The product eliminates tobacco and tar, but there are still unanswered questions about the other chemicals users inhale.

“What we’re urging is simply that anybody who wants to sell a product to help people quit smoking undergoes rigorous testing for safety,” Myers said.

While Dr. Siegel and others insist e-cigarettes are a much safer alternative to smoking, they do agree that more testing is important.

“I think that there’s an urgent need for more research,” Dr. Siegel said. “This is a really promising product.”

Rogic has been a “non-smoker” for five months, and says anything that could help her kick a 15-year habit is worth it.

“I was determined and I knew that I wanted to be a non-smoker, so I just pulled through and did it,” Rogic said.

The FDA is fighting to have e-cigarettes classified as drug devices, which would carry more stringent oversight.

Both New Jersey and Suffolk County currently have laws restricting the use of e-cigarettes.

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