Montreal’s public health department has piped up about e-cigarettes, issuing recommendations and calling on them to be regulated.

Electronic cigarettes are growing in popularity, especially among younger people, and are being sold in about 20 locations around the city.

Montreal Public Health has issued the following recommendations on the matter:

  • They want e-cigarettes be regulated and sold on the market as tobacco products are, which also means there would be limits on advertising.         
  • They want the amount of nicotine in the e-cigarettes to be established by Health Canada.
  • They don't believe there should be claims that e-cigs can be used therapeutically to help you quit smoking before studies prove they're really effective.

McGill chemist for the Office of Science and Society Joe Schwarcz said he believes more and better studies are needed, showing whether they really help people quit smoking.

E-cigarettes are in a sort of scientific limbo, said Schwartz. The fact that smokers don’t inhale all the carcinogenic smoke and tar as they do with regular tobacco is positive, but Schwartz said nicotine itself is not a benign substance.

“It really isn't clear that exposure to nicotine is a safe thing to do. Then the other question that arises: You have a solvent in the e-cigarette called propylene glycol and that has to be vaporized when you inhale the nicotine. Basically, the electric cigarette just heats up a sample to vaporize it. There are some concerns that inhalation of propylene glycol could be a problem but again it hasn't been investigated thoroughly, he said.

Schwarcz also said that a little-talked-about problem involves e-cigarettes and children, because the nicotine in the devices is concentrated.

There have been incidents where children have played with them, and transferred the nicotine to their skin, which when easily absorbed has caused serious, rapid heartbeats.

Public Health plans to officially send their recommendations about e-cigarettes to the federal government by the end of the year.