Ontario has re-ignited the debate over e-cigarettes.

The province plans to introduce a bill to treat e-cigarettes just like their tobacco counterparts.

Electronic cigarettes don’t contain tobacco. They create a vapour by atomizing chemicals. Using one is called vaping, rather than smoking.

"Our proposed legislation would ban the sale and supply of e-cigarettes to anyone under the age of 19, prohibit the use of e-cigarettes in places where the smoking of tobacco is prohibited, ban the sale of e-cigarettes in places where the sale of tobacco is prohibited, and prohibit the display and promotion of e-cigarettes in places where e-cigarettes or tobacco products are sold," announced Dipika Damerla, Associate Minister of Health.

It’s that last part that bothers Nicholas Ethier, owner of Electronic Cigarette on Dalhousie Street in Ottawa.

He agrees with banning sales to minors. But he just opened his business in April, and isn’t sure how he’ll maintain it if he can’t display and promote his products, which he likens more to electronics than cigarettes. “That’s how we spread our message,” he says. “That’s how we allow people to know about the virtues of vaping.”

The virtues of vaping are currently the subject of much debate. Advocates say it’s much safer than smoking because it eliminates tobacco’s carcinogens. They also maintain there is no second-hand smoke and little or no odour so their use in public doesn’t affect anyone else.

But health experts disagree. They say e-cigarettes can be a step backwards in the battle against smoking. “There is some research out of the states that say kids that use these cigarettes are twice as likely to start smoking,” says Sherry Nigro with Ottawa Public Health.

They also point out that the chemicals used in e-cigarettes are unregulated and their long-term health effects are unknown.

Arguably, the biggest debate centres on using e-cigarettes to quit or cut back on smoking. (Many people add nicotine to their e-cigarettes. It is technically illegal in Canada but rarely enforced.)

“There is no evidence so far that it’s effective as a cessation tool,” says Damerla.

“I do see a lot of evidence, front line, of people quitting smoking,” counters Ethier

And that is perhaps the biggest problem with e-cigarettes. The devices are still new enough that there just isn’t much research to shed light on their effects on public health, good or bad.

The proposed regulations would take effect January of 2016.