OTTAWA - The Heart and Stroke Foundation wants the federal government to move quickly to regulate electronic cigarettes in much the same way as tobacco products.
Manuel Arango, a foundation spokesman, said that should include banning e-cigarettes from use in public places and workplaces and not allowing them to be sold by retailers that can't sell tobacco.
Arango said young people who are prohibited by law from buying tobacco should also not be allowed to buy the battery-operated devices, which do not contain tobacco but can be used to heat a liquid nicotine solution, creating a vapour that users inhale.
"We are quite concerned about the fact that these e-cigarettes have the potential to addict new people to nicotine. That is not something that we want to encourage," he said Thursday.
"Could they lead people to smoke when they have never smoked or for people who have quit smoking to smart smoking again?"
Federal Health Minister Rona Ambrose said Monday she’s asking the federal standing committee on health to study the potential risks and benefits of e-cigarettes, and to seek the advice of health experts.
Some believe the devices can be used to help people quit smoking.
The increasingly popular devices are widely available even though Health Canada has not approved any e-cigarettes under the Food and Drug Act.
Arango said the foundation welcomes a parliamentary study, but it shouldn't drag on too long. He said the federal government could make proposals early in the new year.
"There is a lot of growing evidence, a lot of concern about the need to undertake action on an urgent basis right now," he said.
"We would like the results of those consultations to be digested very quickly and for a proposal to be on the table by the federal government."
The foundation said studies suggest that up to 18 per cent of high school students who have never smoked have used e-cigarettes and 31 per cent have indicated they are interested in using them.
The concern is that young people who try e-cigarettes could end up smoking regular tobacco products. Some brands of the devices look like a normal cigarette, complete with a glowing tip.
Arango said the foundation also wants the advertising and promotion of e-cigarettes to be regulated.
The absence of federal regulations hasn't stopped some organizations and municipal governments from restricting their use.
The municipality of York in Ontario and the city of Red Deer in Alberta have imposed outright bans in public places.
E-cigarettes are also banned by the Edmonton public and Catholic school districts and by Winnipeg International Airport.
Toronto city council voted in August to ban the products from city work spaces.