By now, you’ve probably seen them being smoked on the subway or in a bar those shiny, futuristic, battery operated nicotine inhalers better know as electronic cigarettes that are apparently all the rage these days. Big Tobacco companies have taken notice, too, and are determined to cash in on the industry, which is expected to bring in $1.7 billion in U.S. sales this year alone, according to The New York Times.

While much is still unknown about the health risks of e cigarettes, here s what we do know E cigarettes are addicting. And while they may not be as harmful as tobacco cigarettes, critics like the British Medical Association and the World Health Organisation are wary of the trend and warn of the dangers that may be associated with the smoking devices.

Here’s what we do know about e cigarettes

1. E cigarettes contain toxic chemicals.

A 2009 FDA analysis of e cigarettes from two leading brands found that the samples contained carcinogens and other hazardous chemicals, including diethylene glycol, which is found in antifreeze. Last year, a report from Greek researchers found that using e cigarettes increased breathing difficulty in both smokers and non smokers, according to Medical News Today. A more recent study funded by a smoking cessation advocacy group concluded that

“There is no evidence that vaping produces inhalable exposures to contaminants of the aerosol that would warrant health concerns by the standards that are used to ensure safety of workplaces. However, the aerosol generated during vaping as a whole (contaminants plus declared ingredients), if it were an emission from industrial process, creates personal exposures that would justify surveillance of health among exposed persons.”

2. Kids and teens can buy them.

Unlike other tobacco products, e cigarettes can be sold to minors in many places throughout the country. The smoking devices can also be bought legally online, according to the Wall Street Journal.

3. While cigarette companies say they don’t market to kids, e cigarettes come in flavors like cherry, strawberry, vanilla and cookies and cream milkshake.

4. Laws regulating cigarette ads don’t yet apply to e cigarettes.

TV commercials for cigarettes may be banned, but ones for e cigarettes sure aren’t, Adage points out. (The above ad for Blu eCigs features Jenny McCarthy.)

5. And e cigarette companies are spending a TON on advertising.

Industry advertising spending increased to $20.8 million in 2012 from just $2.7 million in 2010, according to The New York Times.

6. E cigarettes can be used in many places where smoking is banned.

Even though some studies suggest that secondhand vapor poses health risks, many lawmakers have yet to determine whether smoking rules apply to e cigarettes, according to USA Today.

7. People think e cigarettes can help them quit smoking.

Research published in the American Journal of Public Health indicates that 53 percent of young adults in the U.S. who have heard of e cigarettes believe they are healthier than traditional cigarettes and 45 percent believe they could help them quit smoking though there is little evidence to support either of these claims.

8. E cigarettes aren’t taxed like traditional tobacco products.

Even though cigarette consumption fell significantly as taxes went up.

9. Despite unknown health consequences, e cigarettes are poised to make inroads with a new generation of young people.

Half of young adults say they would try e cigarettes if a friend offered them one, according a study cited by USA Today.

This post has been updated with additional information from recent studies on the subject.

Also on HuffPost

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  • 1. Smoking related health conditions are a leading cause of death in the United States, accounting for nearly one of every five deaths annually. Source The Centers For Disease Control

  • 2. Every year, tobacco use kills more Americans than HIV, drug and alcohol abuse, suicides, murders and car accidents combined. Source The Centers For Disease Control

  • 3. Secondhand smoke accounts for approximately 50,000 deaths in the United States every year. Source The American Lung Association

  • 4. Cigarette smoke emits nearly 8 billion kilograms of greenhouse gases annually. Source

  • 5. Tobacco farming also contributes to deforestation, destroying more than 500,000 acres of forest a year. Source

  • 6. If tobacco farmers around the globe were to grow food instead, they could feed more than 70 percent of the world’s 28 million malnourished people. Source

  • 7. In 2012, cigarette companies spent nearly $27 million lobbying government agencies and members of Congress. Source

  • 8. Big Tobacco companies market covertly to teens, despite publicly stating that youth should not smoke. Source U.S. News & World Report

  • 9. Each year, the industry spends more than $400 per customer on special promotions, coupons, mailers and other direct marketing efforts to make sure current smokers don’t kick their addictions. Source Stanford University

  • 10. Now, companies are pushing expensive and unregulated e cigarettes. A “starter kit” which includes an e cigarette device, batteries, nicotine cartridges and other accessories can cost upwards of $100. Source

  • 11. What’s more, e cigarettes are offered in a variety of flavors that young children and teens could find especially appealing, like cherry, grape, vanilla and strawberry. Source Fox 5 News

  • 12. The health effects of e cigarettes are still unknown. Medical associations and regulatory bodies are concerned that e cigarettes are nothing more than a “gateway” to a nicotine addiction. Source The Huffington Post

E-cigarettes on planes: legal grey area left up to carriers – calgary – cbc news

Cheap cigarettes online, cheapest european cigarettes shop

For those trying to quit smoking, e cigarettes are being lauded as a less harmful alternative to inhaling thousands of chemicals.

However, deciphering the legal haze around smoking e cigarettes on airplanes is not easy.

  • Nova Scotia cracking down on e cigarettes
  • Are e cigarettes safe to puff?
  • The rise of E cigarettes Helping to quit or encouraging to smoke?

“Under the Non Smoker’s Health Act, and its pursuant regulations, smoking is prohibited on board commercial and charter aircraft for health reasons,” said Transport Canada spokesperson Karine Martel.

“Transport Canada is not aware of any safety risk to the aircraft machinery that would be caused by the vapour from e cigarettes.”

The Non Smoker’s Health Act defines smoking as to smoke, hold or otherwise have control over an ignited tobacco product. However, e cigarettes are neither ignited nor tobacco products.

Instead, they function by electronically vapourizing a liquid, which usually but not always contains nicotine. That mist, which is sometimes flavoured to taste like mint or candy, is then inhaled.

Health Canada has not approved e cigarettes for sale in Canada but has also not legislated any ban against them.

In the same vein, Transport Canada currently does not have any specific rules banning the smoking of e cigarettes on airplanes.

For the time being, it would appear the government is leaving the decision up to individual airlines.

“Air Canada does not permit the use of e cigarettes onboard aircraft,” said airline spokesperson Angela Mah.

However, the airline’s policy regarding carry on baggage does allow e cigarettes onboard “provided they remain stowed and unused.”

WestJet spokesperson Brie Ogle says while the airline typically refers questions regarding e cigarette safety to Transport Canada, it does have a policy saying the devices cannot be operated while onboard.

Ogle says the airline has not yet had any complaints about anyone smoking e cigarettes on flights and are not aware of anyone having tried to do so.

‘No smoke to set off any alarms’

For years, smokers on airplanes have been warned during the flight safety demonstration that smoke detectors in plane bathrooms are installed to detect any cigarette smoke but neither WestJet, Air Canada or Transport Canada would confirm whether they can detect vapour from e cigarettes.

However, Australian e cigarette manufacturer Egar states on their website that the product “only emits harmless water vapour, which will not set off smoke alarms.”

The company claims their product can even be used on planes.

Darren Clark tweeted to CBC Calgary saying he has smoked onboard aircraft without setting off the alarms.

“I’ve done it,” he said. “As long as you’re discrete nobody bothers and there’s always the washroom no smoke to set off any alarms.”

It seems airlines themselves are not entirely sure whether smoke detectors can pick up on e cigarette vapour.

Porter Airlines spokesperson Brad Cicero says he is not aware of whether the airline knows about e cigarettes not setting off smoke detectors.

Ogle also says she did not know for sure whether the devices would set off detectors.

It’s also not clear whether those caught ‘vapeing’ the term e cigarette users use to describe the process of inhaling the vapour would face similar fines to those caught smoking traditional tobacco products while onboard.

Canada leads in aircraft anti smoking rules

In 1994, Canada became the first country to require that its air carriers make all flights domestic and international smoke free.

At that time, the momentum for change came not from passengers but from airline employees.

“Sitting on a long flight having to endure cigarette smoke, while dangerous for passengers, is far more dangerous for flight attendants who have to work in a blue haze,” Donna Hendrick, an airline employee’s union representative, said to CBC News in 1994.

Much of that push was based on discoveries linking cigarette smoke to increased risk of cancer and health effects.

The Calgary Eyeopener‘s medical columnist, Dr. Raj Bhawdwaj, says there’s no clear consensus on whether e cigarettes are safe but their perception as a safer alternative to traditional smoking could undo much of what anti smoking advocates have fought for.

“A lot of people are saying they are allowed to ‘vape’ because they’re not smoking, and the anti tobacco lobby is up in arms about this,” Bhawdwaj said.

“I think part of the solution would be to regulate them not as a drug delivery device but regulate them as a tobacco product which is sort of outside the realm because they’re not tobacco,” he said. “But that’s a huge job.”

What do you think about people being able to smoke e cigarettes on aircraft? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below or tweet us CBCCalgary.