While the ads might say that e-cigarettes are a much safer alternative to traditional cigarettes, recent studies are beginning to show that they contain chemicals that can be just as harmful to your health as smoking.

One of the latest studies, published in the journal Cell Biology and conducted at the Physiology Department of the University of North Carolina, found that some of the chemicals used to flavor the liquid nicotine that is used in e-cigarettes could alter cellular functions in lung tissue, in a manner very similar to tobacco and these chemicals could also prove to be toxic in high doses.

Temperance Rowell, graduate student at the University of North Carolina, said that the "specific chemical components underlying the toxic effects of these e-cigarette flavors on cell viability, proliferation, and calcium signaling in airway epithelia are undergoing further study in our lab."  Rowell went on to say that due to "increasing popularity of flavored e-cigarettes it's crucial that we explore the potential health risks of these ingredients, and the causes."

Due to the promotion of e-cigarettes as a means to control one's smoking habits, they have quickly exploded in popularity and are now widely accessible in both stores and on the Internet.  The loose requirements for proof of identification for buying them has also made them widely available to minors.

In a press released by the Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), the use of e-cigarettes has remained constant among current smokers at 17.6 percent and is extremely rare among non-smokers (0.2 percent).  However, the use of e-cigarettes among ex-smokers has risen substantially from 4.5 percent to 6.7 percent.

The main reason people reported using e-cigarettes is as an attempt to quit smoking, while others use them to reduce the amount of regular tobacco they smoke. Some also cited the ability to use these devices in public areas, while avoiding producing second hand smoke and reduced costs compared to cigarettes.

Deborah Arnott, chief executive of ASH, claims that e-cigarettes are less harmful than tobacco, however people have reported symptoms while using the devices that range from an irritated throat, dry cough and even shortness of breath.  This had led some researchers to believe that they are not the best alternative for people trying to quit smoking. 

"The number of ex-smokers who are staying off tobacco by using electronic cigarettes is growing, showing just what value they can have. But the number of people who wrongly believe that vaping is as harmful as smoking is worrying," Arnott says.

However, how much e-cigarettes will actually help you quit smoking is debatable.  In a study performed by the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, researchers found that e-cigarette users are less likely to quit smoking than smokers who have never used the devices before.