My answer to Is vaping bad for your health?

Answer by Allen He:

We know tobacco kills, and e-cigarettes, at least, seem to help people quit.

Research has indicated that e-cigarettes help people slow their tobacco consumption, anOctober 2014 study showed that six months of vaping led 21 percent of participants to quit traditional cigarettes, with an additional 23 percent cutting back by half.

And according to a new British survey of 1,800 people, e-cigs are replacing approved aids for quitting tobacco, too. They are now used roughly twice as often as government-regulated nicotine gums, lozenges, and patches across the pond. (Similar data does not yet exist for U.S. consumers.)

Meanwhile, the California Department of Public Health just declared e-cigarettes a public health threat.

The week before last, a study claimed hidden high levels of the carcinogen formaldehyde were found in e-cigs, potentially increasing lifetime cancer risk by 5 to 15 percent.

The American Lung Association has also stated its fear of the “potential health consequences” associated with the use of unregulated e-cigarettes — with almost 500 different brands, 7,700 different flavors and wide-ranging nicotine levels. ‘There is much to be concerned about, especially in the absence of FDA oversight,” the organization said in a statement.

When it comes to e-cigarettes, there are those who argue for the pros and there are those who voice the cons. There are no clear answers, leading new U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy to call for more guidance on e-cigarettes use as an aid for smoking cessation.

“There’ve been theories and ideas around the fact that e-cigarettes may be helpful from a harm-reduction perspective in helping people who are already on cigarettes [and who] have had trouble quitting actually get off cigarettes,” Murthy said on Tuesday, Jan. 27 in Richmond, Va., as part of a cross-country listening tour. “If the data indeed bears that out, then I think we should absolutely embrace that and use e-cigarettes in targeted ways.”

However, don’t mistake Murthy’s words for a wholehearted endorsement. “I’m concerned about e-cigarettes, and I think this is an area where we are in desperate need of clarity,” Murthy said. “I think it’s important for us to understand the impact, particularly on youth, before we allow the full-fledged spread of these e-cigarettes and then later have problems that we have to deal with.”

What are those problems? Let’s take a look at the pros, the cons, and exactly what we do and don’t know.

The Good

As previously mentioned, e-cigarettes aren’t all bad. They do seem to help people who are trying to quit traditional cigarettes curb their tobacco addiction, leading the surgeon general to say we could potentially use these devices in “targeted ways.”

According to a 2013 study of 657 smokers published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, e-cigarettes were as effective as nicotine patches in helping people kick their tobacco habit for at least six months.

According to Charles Powell, MD, chief of pulmonary medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital and a professor of medicine at Mount Sinai Medical School in New York City. “they are essentially a delivery device for nicotine,” he tells Yahoo Health. “Just like gum or patches, they have similar replacement effects, and they’re potentially a more comfortable, attractive way to deliver the substance.”

More: Are E-Cigarettes Heroes Or Harmful? by Allen He on E-Cigarette

Is vaping bad for your health?