Maybe you've seen ads for e-cigarettes on the Internet. Or maybe you've seen displays set up at mall kiosks selling the contraptions. They're still a niche product, but their visibility online and in malls could mean that your kids will be asking questions about them, maybe before you even get a chance to figure out what they are. Essentially, e-cigarettes vaporize a liquid form of nicotine, allowing the buzz of smoking without tobacco or smoke. What you inhale when you "smoke" e-cigarettes is actually a combination of water vapor and vaporized nicotine. Makers of these alternative cigarettes claim they are safer, that they have fewer negative health effects than cigarettes and that they can even be a smoking cessation aid [source: Sohn].
However, e-cigarettes aren't regulated by the FDA, and there have not been any extensive scientific studies to prove the manufacturers' claims [source: Katz]. And be careful: Because of how they're sold, it's not difficult for kids to buy them online without parental permission. Since they're largely sold over the Internet by companies that can be unreliable, the manufacturing quality of the products is also unregulated. Malfunctioning units with problems like leaking nicotine cartridges are common [source: Sohn]. Since e-cigarettes are still so new and unknown, it's probably best to tell your children that they are not safer than regular cigarettes, at least until more information becomes available.