DEAR DOCTOR K: I caught my son and his friends smoking e-cigarettes. My son tells me I have no reason to worry, and that they're safer than regular cigarettes. What exactly are e-cigarettes? Are they safe?
DEAR READER: E-cigarettes are battery-operated devices that look like cigarettes. They are built around a heating element, a cartridge that contains nicotine and other chemicals, and an atomizer that converts the chemicals into a vapor. Instead of inhaling smoke from e-cigarettes, the user inhales this vapor. (This is sometimes called "vaping.")