E-cigarettes grow in popularity, but still risky

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (WJLA) – Electronic or e-cigarettes have been growing in popularity.

For instance, this Tobacco Mart and Cigar Room in Alexandria carries disposable and rechargable models, along with vials of liquid nicotine of various flavors and strengths.

"This helps people a lot. Some people, they come back to the store and say they start to use them, they stop smoking the cigarettes, the regular cigarettes," says store owner Mohamad Algailani.

These e-cigarettes also allow people to smoke in places that don’t allow regular cigarettes. There is no foul-smelling smoke – just scented, mostly water vapors. But some still argue they’re dangerous

"You are at significant risk if you are in an area where people are using e-cigarettes," insists John Banzhof, Public Interest Law professor at GWU.

Banzhof adds that while e-cigarettes don’t contain many of the carcinogens found in regular cigarettes, their secondhand smoke is still bad.

The FDA currently only has the authority to regulate cigarettes and smokeless tobacco, but it’s now under pressure to add e-cigarettes, cigars, and hookah to that list.

In fact, more than 100 jurisdictions have now banned e-cigarette smoking wherever regular cigarette smoking is prohibited -- and D.C. is considering such a measure as well.

And while e-cigarettes cannot be sold to minors, critics say they are getting into the hands of teenagers, and that the devices are also used to smoke marijuana without being detected.