Quitting smoking is always one of the top New Year's resolutions.

But while e-cigarettes are marketed as a non-tobacco alternative to traditional smokes, they remain controversial and aren’t tightly regulated everywhere.

E-cigarettes are battery-operated devices designed to look like and be used in the same ways regular cigarettes are smoked. 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.  

Health Canada says it has not authorized any electronic cigarettes with nicotine or health claims.

Health scientist Bruce Lanphear of B.C.'s Simon Fraser University wants to find out how much safer e-cigarettes are compared to their tobacco counterparts.

"Maybe it's analogous to, 'Is it safer to have a pistol as opposed to an AK-47?'” Lanphear said.

New York City has banned e-cigarettes in places where tobacco smokes are banned. But an e-cigarette ban isn't the answer to help people quit smoking, said e-cigarette supporter David Sweanor.

One million Canadians will die as a result of smoking in the next 25 years, according to Sweanor.

"They are all already smoking," he said.

Watch e-cigarette supporters and health advocates discuss safe ways to quit smoking.

Corrections

  • A previous version of this story reported that Canada banned the sales of e-cigarettes that contain nicotine. In fact, Health Canada says it has not authorized any electronic cigarettes with nicotine or health claims.
    Jan 08, 2014 9:38 AM ET