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U study to answer the burning questions around e-cigarettes

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Many questions surround the exploding electronic cigarette market. Are they beneficial for quitters? Is it a safer alternative to smoking? Are there health risks, if so what are they?

With those and many more questions in mind, the University of Minnesota announced that it will conduct a clinical study to answer some of those burning questions.

The Star Tribune reports the university study will particularly examine smokers' exposures to nicotine and other toxins that are found in some of the e-cigarette brands.

"The components of e-cigarettes vary widely and the toxicant profile of e-cigarettes has not been fully explored," said university researcher Stephen Hecht to the newspaper. "We want to get an idea of what users can expect from this emerging and expanding market."

WCCO reports university researchers expect that people who smoke traditional cigarettes will have higher levels of chemicals in their bodies, but predict that e-cigarettes will have some health effects.

National studies have produced mixed results on whether e-cigarettes actually help people quit or reduce their smoking habits.

Quit smoking group, Clearway Minnesota says there is insufficient testing to determine whether e-cigarettes are safe or help people quit. The organization also has concerns about how the products are marketed separately and can be sold near children's products.

A Reuters report on Wednesday looked at the future of the e-cigarette market.

Bonnie Herzog, a Wells Fargo bank analyst in New York, predicts that by 2017 e-cigarette sales will actually overtake the sales of regular cigarettes. Herzog estimates that the market will reach $2 billion by the end of 2013. She says the U.S. market for e-cigarettes alone could reach $1 billion.

The growth is being reflected in Minnesota, there are growing numbers of e-cigarette retailers.

The findings may help local and state governments to figure out how to regulate the industry. Some cities have considered banning e-cigarettes in public places and at least one state lawmakers has proposed a similar ban.

The University of Minnesota study is looking for people who use e-cigarettes only and those who use them with traditional cigarettes.

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