Are e-cigarettes a safer alternative to real cigarettes? - WMBFNews.com, Myrtle Beach/Florence SC, Weather

Are e-cigarettes a safer alternative to real cigarettes?

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) -

With smoking bans in bars, restaurants, and one even coming soon to the entire campus of the University of South Carolina, it's not easy being a smoker in this day and age.

"When someone passes you and they see you smoking, they comment on how nasty it is," said smoker Courtney Niblick.

It's a habit Niblick just has not been able to break.

"It's the hand motion, you see the smoke come out," said Niblick.

A few months ago, Niblick made the switch from lighting up to charging up with e-cigarettes.

"I don't plan to stop smoking, but I do plan to go down on my nicotine," said Niblick.

"This is not something that you want to do, that we want to turn people onto. This is an alternative to smoking," said Leah Creel, manager for VapingZone.com. "If you already smoke, this is better for you."

Are they better for you? The jury is still out on that one, according to Dr. Allen Wenner.

"Are they safe? We don't know because I haven't seen that type of study," said Wenner.

Despite their growing popularity, the FDA has not regulated e-cigarettes, and the state of South Carolina is also struggling with how to tax the devices.

Close to 100 people come into VapingZone's store for their fix every day, and medical experts worry it's a more effective way to get a larger dose of a dangerous drug.

"It does not change nicotine use, which is highly addictive psychoactive substance," said Wenner. "So we have to be careful that the nicotine delivery system doesn't actually make it easier."

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