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celine bags on sale Amanda Bevis, who works at Twickenham Vapor, demonstrates how an e-cigarette works. Twickenham Vapor, located on the corner of Lowe Avenue and Madison Street, is a new e-cigarette store in downtown Huntsville which offers an assortment e-cig accessories as well as a selection of more than 75 different flavors of liquid. (Sarah Coleemail@example.com) E-cigarettes are a multiple health challenge, according to an Alabama public health official. First and foremost, there's the question of whether they're physically harmful to the user. Even if they're not, or if the tradeoff versus tobacco seems worth it, there's the question of whether they lure tobacco users into a new kind of "smoking" that ultimately leads back to the old smoking. And because of their marketing, where , there's the question of whether e-cigarettes will be a gateway to regular smoking for teens. Fueling the concerns is a rapid rise in popularity in e-cigarette isthat has gotten ahead of the research. "We don't know a lot about them," Madison County Health Officer Dr. Lawrence Robey said recently. "That's the problem." Robey said there is a conflict about the health risks in the medical literature so far. "For some people, they may not be that bad," he says. "For some, they may be, depending on their general health, the medications they take and so forth." E-cigarettes are tubes containing a battery, a heater and a liquid mixture containing nicotine. The liquid, typically a mixture of water and propylene glycol, is heated to a vapor by the battery. The smoker inhales and exhales the vapor which looks like smoke. Studies have shown the e-cigarettes deliver little nicotine compared to regular cigarettes. More importantly, they don't deliver the tar and some of the other toxic chemicals produced by burning tobacco. Tar and those other chemicals are the most dangerous parts of a cigarette, Robey agrees. But that's not to say e-cigarettes are worry-free. "There is some concern with the (propylene glycol)," Robey said. "What happens when you inhale it?" Propylene glycol is by the Food and Drug Administration and is contained in other food products. But the FDA's official position on e-cigarettes is that they "have not been fully studied so consumers do not know" the risks, including The FDA intends to extend its authority to e-cigarettes, but hasn't done so yet except for those marketed "for therapeutic purposes." Nicotine itself is a chemical "known to the state of California to cause birth defects or other reproductive harm," according to the warnings on e-cigarettes in that state. But Robey says nicotine is also the subject of preliminary studies that suggest it "may improve mental function." It could be used in some form in the future for patients suffering Alzheimer's or other mental problems. Given the clear and proven danger of burning tobacco, Robey said e-cigarettes may deserve a place in society's weapons against smoking. Nicotine-delivery systems such as patches are already widely available, he said, and e-cigarettes could be a useful addition to those. But Robey immediately qualifies that support. "It shouldn't go on forever," he said of smoking e-cigarettes. "It should be used to help stop smoking." The qualification points to the second potential health problem with e-cigarettes. "They are not addicting in the way that narcotics are addicting," Robey said, "but are the smokers becoming dependent on them or the behavior of smoking them?" Smokers know that the physical act of handling, lighting and inhaling any kind of burning tobacco is an attraction in and of itself. "It gives me something to do with my hands," is a common smoker's comment. "It looks cool," is another attitude usually associated with young people. Will smokers use e-cigarettes to wean themselves off tobacco? Or will they simply substitute one less-harmful habit for another more-harmful habit? And does that matter? one potentially addictive substance for another addictive substance - alcohol for illegal drugs, for example - can ultimately lead an addict back to the original addiction. But does that apply to cigarettes? Are smokers addicts in that sense? And is the nicotine dose delivered in e-cigarettes anywhere near strong enough to stimulate that kind of craving? The science isn't clear. There's clearly more to learn about e-cigarettes, and one of the concerns is that they could become entrenched in society before the potential harm is understood. As for today, Robey sees e-cigarettes as "the lesser of the two evils" compared to tobacco. "But only if they are being used over a period of time to stop smoking," he says.