Are electronic cigarettes safe?

AMARILLO, Texas----Over the last year, electronic cigarettes have gained popularity across the nation and right here in the Panhandle.

They hit the market a few years ago and as advertising increases and national celebrities support it, many are wondering if the purpose is to help those kick the habit, or if it's just another fad.

"Our smoking rates in the US have been stabilized around 20 percent," Bharat Khandheria with the Texas Tech Health Science Center said.

To help those kick the habit, a hybrid cigarette was created.

"The reason they are said to be better than regular cigarettes is because regular cigarettes contain thousands of harmful carcinogens which cause cancer," he said.

Electronic cigarettes still contain nicotine, but lack the cancerous chemicals.

The device isn't cheap either and will set you back $70-$100.

Not to mention, you eventually have to purchase refill cartridges.

"Your ultimate goal is to quit smoking," he said.

Popular television shows like "The Doctors" say the electronic cigarette could be the key to preventing lung cancer.

But Khandheria is skeptical.

"It took us 30 to 40 years to say that smoking was bad," he said. "To say electronic cigarettes are completely safe I don't think I can say that right now."

Others are skeptical too.

"The FDA has not approved them," Sharri Miller, a tobacco treatment specialist said. "The FDA is a regulatory agency that helps keep us safe and when they won't approve it then that brings up a red flag."

And Khandheria wonders if the technology could do more damage than good.

"If it becomes a fad or fashion among teenagers, then it in fact would be doing more harm."

Most airlines have banned electronic cigarettes along with a handful of restaurants saying it's simply too early to tell the long term effects of these devices.