As an ex-smoker, I'm very leery of e-cigarettes. I think they're another way for Big Tobacco to convince smokers to try to tone down, rather than quit, their cigarette habits. Most everyone I know who tried to switch to e-cigarettes for the health benefits have wound up back on, uh, analog cigarettes within a matter of weeks. Having "failed" at their attempt to curb their smoking habit, they become even more disillusioned about quitting, and they're less likely to try to quit again.

But the biggest question about e-cigarettes has yet to be answered: Are they anywhere near as bad for your health as cigarettes? We just don't know, and we're still figuring out how to regulate the burgeoning e-cigarette market. This report by Dierdre Lockwood contains the most level-headed thinking about e-cigarettes that I've seen in one place. Here's a taste:

Compared with tobacco products, e-cigarettes are a safer option for smokers; they don’t deliver many of the harmful by-products of tobacco combustion, says Maciej L. Goniewicz, a toxicologist at Roswell Park Cancer Institute, in Buffalo. Nicotine is addictive and can increase heart rate, but it poses lower risk than the carcinogenic compounds in tobacco smoke, he says. The glycerol and propylene glycol in e-liquid are generally recognized as safe by FDA.

“But there’s no reason for experimenting with this product if you’re not already smoking tobacco cigarettes,” he adds. Little research has been done on e-cigarettes’ acute health risks, and their danger, especially for long-term use, is unknown. As the devices are unregulated, the quality control of the more than 250 brands currently on the market is uncertain.

There's a whole lot more in Lockwood's report, including the possibility that e-cigarette users might be inhaling tiny particles of metal into their lungs, and you should read the whole thing if you've been thinking about e-cigarette use.

On a more surface level, the thing that I don't understand about e-cigarettes is the way the industry seems to be coalescing around "vape" as a verb to describe the use of their product. There is nothing at all appealing about replacing "vape" for "smoke" or "vaping" for "smoking." It's a terrible, unappealing word that, overnight, everyone seems to have agreed on as an industry standard. Since e-cigarettes are going to be around for a while, can Big Tobacco at least spend some money on promoting a different verb? Mist? Fog? Cloud? Steam? Puff? Something? Anything?