Image: Horsten, WikimediaThe Canadian Lung Association encourages people who want to quit smoking to use scientifically proven methods and to avoid gimmicky unproven methods, like electronic cigarettes.

"Don't be fooled by e-cigarettes. These electronic devices could be potentially harmful to lung health and are not an approved quit smoking aid by either Health Canada or the U.S. Federal Drug Administration," says Margaret Bernhardt-Lowdon, a tobacco issues spokesperson for the Canadian Lung Association.

E-cigarettes are battery-operated devices that are designed to look like and be used in the same manner as regular cigarettes. These devices contain cartridges that may be filled with nicotine, flavoring and other chemicals. E-cigarettes electronically vaporize a solution creating a mist that is breathed into the lungs.

Although not approved by Health Canada, they are readily available to purchase in Canadian retail outlets and from the internet. In 2009, Health Canada issued an advisory warning Canadians to not use e-cigarettes.

E-cigarettes are not proven safe

"People who use e-cigarettes inhale unknown, unregulated and potentially harmful substances into their lungs," says Theo Moraes, a medical spokesperson for the Canadian Lung Association and an assistant professor at the Univ. of Toronto. "There are many nicotine replacement therapies approved by Health Canada to help someone quit smoking; the e-cigarette is not one of them."

E-cigarettes may contain ingredients that are known to be toxic to humans including carcinogens and diethylene glycol, a toxic chemical used in antifreeze. In initial lab tests, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration found detectable levels of carcinogens and toxic chemicals in two leading brands of e-cigarettes and 18 various cartridges.

E-cigarettes have candy-like flavors that appeal to kids

The Canadian Lung Association is greatly concerned that e-cigarettes with candy-like flavors, such as chocolate and vanilla, are being marketed and sold to youth.

"We are afraid that e-cigarettes, if not regulated, may lead more young people to start smoking," says Moraes, who is also a staff respirologist at The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. "These products have candy-like flavors, which appeal to children and teenagers and can be bought by those under the age of 18. We are also concerned that e-cigarettes may lead kids to try other tobacco products."