BETHLEHEM, Pa. -

Purchased online or in shops near you, electronic cigarettes are a growing trend all across the nation, but as much as the battery-operated devices are a hot product right now, they're also hotly-debated.

"It's definitely the way to go," said George Blandford, owner of Lehigh Vapor in Bethlehem, a shop specializing in electronic cigarette (e-cig) products.

Between the actual device itself, to varying flavors of "E-Liquid" - the concoction that's heated, vaporized and smoked - Blandford said sales are pouring in.

But to him, selling e-cigs is more about making a difference, than a profit. He believes nicotine e-cigs are the path to giving up real cigarettes, arguing that the former is far healthier than the latter.

"Business is good, but it's really not about business. I believe in this," said Blandford. "I want people to quit smoking and people will do it if you present it to them."

For customers like Todd Brown, it's an idea that holds true.

"This is the most successful thing I've used for getting off of cigarettes," said Brown, a cigarette smoker for more than 30 years. "It gives you the nicotine you want without all of the chemicals that are in cigarettes."

Customer Josh Starr, of Bethlehem, agreed: "I feel so much better, 100 times better than smoking cigarettes. I don't get as sick as often. I don't feel that congestion. My lungs feel better."

But as for whether e-cigs actually are healthier than real cigarettes - medical experts aren't so sure - citing limited research and testing. Currently, electronic cigarettes containing nicotine are not FDA-regulated.

"Pick your poison," said Karen DeLong, a certified tobacco treatment specialist at Respiratory Specialists in Wyomissing. Without FDA-regulation, DeLong said users are breathing in the unknown.

"Who's to say what's in the electronic cigarette? Is there an expiration date on it? That's what the FDA monitors," said DeLong. "How long is it stable? Does it get worse overtime? Versus, deteriorate over time?"

When it comes to Blandford's product, those are questions he can partially answer. The shop owner creates his own E-liquid, which he claims contains only four, FDA-approved ingredients: propylene glycol, vegetable glycerin, nicotine and food-grade flavoring.

The mixed concoction itself, however, isn't FDA-approved.

"Who's to know what you're creating when you mix those chemicals together?" said DeLong, who urges smokers to try alternative products, if cessation is the goal.

"There are other options that are successful, approved, [and] paid for by your insurance," said DeLong. She encourages smokers to try patches, medication or prescribed nicotine inhalers to kick the habit. Ideally, she hopes smokers will seek help picking the right product.

"I always tell people [to] talk to a provider and get the correct information," said DeLong. "You need the guidance of behavior changes."

But despite that advice, Blandford's customers are content using the electronic product. Despite criticism, his customers are confident that e-cigs are safe for regular use, or, at the very least, that e-cigs are the lesser of two evils.

"I know it's probably not the best thing for you. It's probably better I don't do it at all but I still get to smoke and it's still, you know, less harmful than real cigarettes," said Starr.

"Is it ideal for everybody? Should everybody vape? No." said Blandford. "Is it a lot healthier than cigarettes? Does it have a lot less chemicals and harmful effects than a regular cigarette? Yes. Why would you not want to do that?"