Electronic cigarettes were created as a way for smokers to mimic the use of traditional cigarettes, supposedly without the health risks. However, the harsh reality is that e-cigs may be dangerous, and the unregulated products inside have no proven long-term effectiveness as a smoking cessation tool.

Vaping, or the act of smoking an e-cig was first created in 2003 as a safe alternative for tobacco smokers or to assist anyone who is trying to quit.

The vaporization unit inside e-cigs come in many different shapes, but the function remains the same. A battery heats up the coil that converts the juice into vapor which the user inhales. Unlike cigarettes, e-cigs have no fire, ash or smoky smell. Instead, the smoke smell often resembles the flavor of the juice, leaving a fresh aroma.

Some health experts are concerned about marketers promoting e-cigs as a healthier alternative to tobacco.

At this point, the products in e-cigs are entirely unregulated by the Food and Drug Administration, which means there are no safety checks or requirements for what can or cannot be an ingredient. There also has been no study that has adequately or definitively addressed the long-term safety of e-cigs.

Remember, e-cig juice in cartidges contains differing amounts of nicotine, or no nicotine at all. Manufacturers add flavorings to the liquid, which range from tobacco and menthol to mint, chocolate, coffee, caramel and a plethora of fruit flavors.

The U.S. Center for Disease Control reports e-cig use among high school students tripled in one year, rising from 4.5 percent in 2013 to 13.4 percent in 2014 among high school students.

Cancer-causing chemicals such as an ingridient in antifreeze have been found in e-cigs delivery cartridges, and high levels of formaldehyde have been found in the aerosols from e-cigs. There is  also no research on the short and long-term effects of nicotine vapor to the body.

A 2009 study by the FDA looked at the differing levels of nicotine in the manufacturers cartridges. It was found that not all the manufacturers labels were correct. Some supposedly nicotine-free cartridges were found to contain nicotine, and some nicotine cartridges lacked any nicotine. It’s impossible to know for sure whether your cartridge has nicotine or not.

Without proper regulation and oversight, we may never fully know what’s actually in the materials used in e-cigs. I hope that as more studies are done, some much needed regulation can finally be implemented.

Nick Sallen is the opinion editor for The Dakota Student. He can be reached at [email protected]