Use of electronic cigarettes, devices that deliver a nicotine-containing vapor, has increased rapidly across the country and globally. Perceived and marketed as a "healthier alternative" to conventional cigarettes, few data exist regarding the safety of these devices and their efficacy in harm reduction and treatment of tobacco dependence; even less is known about their overall impact on population health. This review highlights the recent data regarding electronic cigarette toxicity, impact on lung function, and efficacy in smoking reduction and cessation. Studies show that the vapor generated from electronic cigarettes has variable amounts of nicotine and potential harmful toxins, albeit at levels lower than in conventional cigarettes. The long-term carcinogenic and lung function effects of electronic cigarettes are not known. Although some data demonstrate that electronic cigarettes may be effective in reducing conventional cigarette consumption, there are no data demonstrating the efficacy of electronic cigarettes as a tool to achieve cessation. Until robust longitudinal evaluations demonstrate the safety of electronic cigarettes and efficacy in treatment of tobacco dependence, their role as a harm reduction tool is unclear.