MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — For years, the University of Minnesota has been doing research on tobacco and tobacco-related products. The dangers of the emerging market of electronic cigarettes is still widely unknown.

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E-cigarettes aren’t packed with tobacco. Instead, they’re filled with different flavored liquids that contain similar chemicals to those found in the traditional cigarettes, like nicotine and formaldehyde.

While the two look alike, Dorothy Hatskuami, Ph.D, associate director for Cancer Prevention and Control in the Masonic Cancer Center said smoking an e-cigarette is different than smoking a traditional one.

“We know there are flavorings in these new products and we don’t know what happens when you heat these flavors and ingest them in your lungs,” she said.

What’s in each bottle varies greatly. Since the Food and Drug Administration doesn’t oversee that market, not all labels are forthright with what’s inside.

For instance, some bottles don’t list nicotine as an additive, but sometimes, it’s still in there.

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E-cigarettes also include a battery that heats the liquid to create a vapor plume of smoke. It’s from propylene glycol, the same substance found in food, cosmetics and fog machines.

E-cigarette sales are expected to top $1.7 billion this year. A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study found 1.8 million teenagers have tried them at least once.

Researchers at the University of Minnesota want to know how much these new devices are exposing users to the toxic chemicals inside. They expect smokers who smoke traditional cigarettes to have the higher levels of chemicals in their body. But say the new e-cigarettes still have some health effects. Their new study will help pin-point to what degree.

Hatskuami said there is a real concern for the quality of products on the market. Currently, the FDA is trying to get some regulation over e-cigarettes. Results from the U of M’s study could help with that.

“If we do find significant exposure (from the e-cigarette chemicals) then a regulatory agency may be concerned with that and put some limits on those or ban those chemicals in these products,” she said.

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The University is looking for people who smoke e-cigarettes or smoke both traditional and e-cigarettes. Some participants will get paid to be a part of the study. If you’re interested, call 612-624-4568.