A new study has raised concerns about the connection between e-cigarette use and conventional smoking, particularly among adolescents.

“The Journal of the American Medical Association: Pediatrics” (JAMA) released on March 6 a report from researchers at UCLA’s Center for Tobacco and Research Education, analyzing responses to the 2011 and 2012 National Youth Tobacco Survey (NYTS) conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“Use of e-cigarettes does not discourage, and may encourage, conventional cigarette use among U.S. adolescents,” they concluded.

The technology used in e-cigarettes was patented in the early 1960s but has increased in popularity recently with advertisements billing them as a safer, healthier alternative to cigarettes.

E-cigarettes are battery-powered devices that create a vapor, allowing users to inhale substances – most often nicotine combined with other chemicals and flavorings – from a cartridge.

According to a CDC report published in 2013, “in most states there are no restrictions on the sale of e-cigarettes to minors” and there was a 7 percent cumulative increase in e-cigarette use among students in grades 6 through 12 between 2011 and 2012.

Despite claims to advertise only to adults, e-cigarette manufacturers have created flashy ads with well-known celebrities and lesser-known models touting the benefits of their products.

Some promotions recall the “Marlboro Man” ads aimed at the rugged outdoor consumer while others portray sophisticated urbanites smoking e-cigarettes dressed in tailor-made suits and playing chess.

Several of these promotions bring to mind cigarette ads from a generation ago, promising better health through using their products. The difference is that now consumers, and advertisers, should know better.

“Make the switch today and live healthier,” urges one manufacturer.

“Why quit?” asks another ad. “No one likes a quitter, so make the switch today.”

Because they contain nicotine, advertisements that present the product as a healthy, sophisticated and worry-free alternative to cigarettes are misleading consumers.

Believing an e-cigarette is a healthy alternative might seem logical since cigarettes contain at least 600 chemicals, according to the American Lung Association, which combine to form more than 4,000 chemicals when lit, 50 of which are known to be cancer-causing substances.

Yet, the chemicals in e-cigarette cartridges are currently unregulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and they contain nicotine, which is known to be an addictive substance that is harmful to the body.

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