01/02/2014 09:47 EST | Updated 03/04/2014 05:59 EST

E-cigarettes divide health experts

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.  

Canada has banned the sales of e-cigarettes that contain nicotine.

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 supposed 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.