Rochester, New York -
E-cigarettes are a popular alternative to smoking tobacco. But, the jury is still out on whether they're safe and actually help people quit smoking.
The University of Rochester is now on the forefront of research aimed at finding answers.
Some who smoke e-cigarettes say they'll never go back to regular cigarettes. Like Zach Bater, he's the manager of Smokers Choice on West Henrietta Road. And for the past two years, it's been all e-cigarettes, all the time.
"I don't wake up in the morning with that smokers cough anymore, hacking up a lung, anything like that. I feel so much better. I can actually go out and do stuff and be active for a while and not run out of breath like I used to when I was smoking cigarettes," said Bater.
But, Bater knows not every question has been answered about the relatively new form of alternative tobacco.
Further down the street doctors at the University of Rochester are trying to answer some of those questions.
"These things are vaporized and inhaled and we're really concerned about the potential for adverse health affects from inhaling these compounds," said Dr. Thomas Mariani
Dr. Mariani is the head of a $2.1 million study that's funded by the National Institutes of Health and the FDA.
"The truth is we really don't know if that's a healthier alternative. We really don't know if some non-traditional tobacco products, some different types of e-cigarettes, are better than others. And that's what we hope to try to define in our research," added Dr. Mariani.
And even without enough concrete data about the affects of e-cigarettes, people like Bater will gladly keep their new habit, rather than smoking a pack or two a day.
"I know the FDA is trying to see if they want to approve it or not. Currently, it is not FDA approved, but I believe that it will be," said Bater.
As the number of e-cigarette products grow so does the health questions that come with what some people swear is a better alternative.