The Nova Scotia government is promising to move quickly to bring in regulations for electronic cigarettes.

The battery-operated devices deliver nicotine as a vapour, which proponents say is healthier than smoking.

An e-cigarette store has been operating in New Glasgow since August and another opened in Halifax less than two months ago.

It's a trend that worries Nova Scotia's Health Minister Leo Glavine.

“The e-cigarette does have disturbing elements to it,” he said.

E-cigarettes are not covered under the province's smoking ban.

Glavine said he worries that after years of working to cut smoking rates, e-cigarettes will make lighting up acceptable again.

“Is this the very beginnings of really undermining a whole public atmosphere that is truly smoke-free?” he asked.

The financial lure of e-cigarettes is also strong. Three cartons of regular cigarette can cost close to $250. That's roughly equivalent to a $20 bottle of nicotine syrup for the e-cigarettes.

“I think the potential of a slide backward here could come about," said Glavine. "We will do everything as a department of health and I, as minister, to make sure we don't regress.”

Legal limbo

E-cigarettes fall into a legal grey area because they're not approved for sale by Health Canada.

Craig Sievert's family has been in the tobacco business in Halifax since the 1870s, but he’s staying away from the devices for now.

“If it's controlled by the government or it's approved by Health Canada, fine, we'll sell it. I don't want to get involved with it unless it's actually allowed,” he said.

The health minister says Nova Scotia's e-cigarette regulations could be introduced at the legislature in the session that starts on Thursday, or — at the very latest —  in the spring.