New Brunswick's deputy chief medical officer of health says he's concerned about the sale and use of e-cigarettes in the province, particularly among youth.
Dr. Denis Allard hopes to see some kind of provincial regulations soon.
"I'd say sooner the better," Allard told CBC News.
"I think it's fairly pressing in that, you know, we don’t want the use of these types of products to become too common or normalized within the youth population, because then it’s probably going to be harder to undo," he said.
Electronic — or e-cigarettes — are battery-operated devices designed to look like and be used in the same way as tobacco cigarettes. Generally, e-cigarettes contain cartridges that may be filled with nicotine, flavouring and other chemicals, and electronically vaporize a solution creating a mist breathed into the lungs.
'I would think, I would hope, it's not going to take too long.' - Dr. Denis Allard, deputy chief medical officer of health
Allard says they could act as a "portal" to youth eventually using tobacco cigarettes.
"The flavours are attractive. They get used to holding a cigarette. The cigarette looks pretty much like the tobacco cigarette. And it's just easy then for them to move on to using the ones with nicotine in the future, and eventually, perhaps even the tobacco products," he said.
Studies in the United States have shown at least 10 per cent of youth using e-cigarettes had never used tobacco products before, said Allard.
Health Canada says it has not authorized any electronic cigarettes with nicotine or health claims."So it’s best to go with early prevention with our message first. So I would think, I would hope, it's not going to take too long."
But they are still being sold in the province and are growing in popularity, according to Fredericton store owner Ryanne Pineda, who says he has more than 2,000 local and online customers.
Pineda is currently fighting an order from Health Canada to stop selling e-cigarettes and the flavoured vaporizing liquids he produces at East Coast Vape. He contends Schedule F of the Food and Drugs Act states that a dose of nicotine of under four milligrams is exempt from being classified as a new drug or a drug delivery system.
Last week, the head of the New Brunswick Lung Association called on the New Brunswick government to add e-cigarettes to the provincial ban on smoking in public places, saying more research about the possible health risks are needed.
Allard says it's not that simple. The current smoking ban deals with tobacco products, so the legislation would need to be changed. Meanwhile, e-cigarettes that contain nicotine are really a federal issue, he said.
"At this stage, New Brunswick is certainly in discussions at the federal and provincial level," said Allard.
"We want to have the most effective type of approach regarding this matter in terms of trying to discourage the use, but also, if we come out with regulations, making sure it will be effective and enforceable."
The Nova Scotia government has promised to move quickly to bring in regulations for e-cigarettes. Health Minister Leo Glavine has said he worries that after years of working to cut smoking rates, e-cigarettes will make lighting up acceptable again. He hopes to see regulations introduced no later than the spring.