The fast spreading e cigarettes are undoing the anti smoking efforts of the last three decades, health experts warn.

Also, the number of people being poisoned by e cigarettes in the US has gone up manifold in the last few years, according to official reports.

The number of calls to poison centres in the US relating to e cigarettes has risen from one per month in September 2010 to 215 per month in February 2014.

The figures, from the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), also show the number of calls per month relating to conventional cigarettes did not increase in the same way.

The CDC statistics show that more than half of the calls relate to children under the age of five.

Poisoning related to e cigarettes involves the liquid containing nicotine used in the devices.

“This report raises another red flag about e cigarettes the liquid nicotine used in e cigarettes can be hazardous,” CDC director Tom Frieden said in a statement.

E cigarette liquids come in candy and fruit flavours that are appealing to children.

“The most recent National Youth Tobacco Survey showed e cigarette use is growing fast, and now this report shows e cigarette related poisonings are also increasing rapidly,” Tim McAfee, director of CDC&#39 s office on smoking and health, was quoted as saying.

The study comes close on the heels of news that the Welsh government might include e cigarettes under the smoking ban.

New study finds that e-cig vapor affects cells the same way as tobacco smoke

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Electronic cigarettes have experienced a pretty sizable uptick in popularity over the past few years, partially due to the fact that they’re sometimes touted as a safer alternative to traditional cigarettes. But a newly published study one of the first to examine the biological effects of inhaling vaporized e liquid suggests that this might not be the case.

The study, which was recently published in Nature and presented at the American Association of Cancer Research’s annual meeting this week, found that bronchial cells grown in a medium exposed to e cig vapor showed “strikingly similar” gene mutations to those grown in a medium exposed to tobacco smoke.

Further research is needed to draw clear cut conclusions, but these similarities may be an indicator that e cig vapor could potentially increase a user’s risk of cancer, despite the fact that e liquid is completely tobacco free and doesn’t require combustion to be consumed.

“They may be safer than tobacco , but our preliminary studies suggest that they may not be benign, said study author Avrum Spira, a genomics and lung cancer researcher at Boston University.

The next step is to conduct further experiments on the genes altered by the e cig vapor to discern their cancer causing potential. “These studies will determine the impact of e cig exposure on lung carcinogenicity and provide needed scientific guidance to the FDA regarding the physiologic effects of e cigs,” Spira added.

In spite of all the uncertainty surrounding their potential health effects, the FDA has taken its sweet time in regulating e cigs, which have risen from relative obscurity to become a multi billion dollar industry in just a few years time. Without any federal regulation, the e cigarette market is basically the Wild West right now. There’s little if any quality control, and marketers can peddle e cigs however they want be it to kids, or as a smoking cessation method.

Proposed federal rules on how to regulate e cigs are expected to come down soon, but considering what research has shown thus far, in the meantime it’s probably a good idea to approach e cigargette use with caution and not assume it’s completely safe.

(Images Marc Bruxelle via Shutterstock)