LAS VEGAS Hundreds of children become dangerously sick every month in this country thanks to a product marketed as a safer alternative to tobacco cigarettes.

E cigarettes, &#39 e&#39 for electronic, are growing in popularity and more children are getting their hands on the potentially poisonous liquid inside.

The main thing is the product is not regulated by the federal government. There is no rule that e cigarettes have to be child proofed, technically stores can even sell to children.

More people are “vaping” than ever before, and it has many people wondering what the dangers are.

Chemicals wrapped in bright beautiful colors and smelling like candy.

As the sale of electronic cigarettes go up, so do the calls to poison control centers around the country. In September 2010 there was one call, that number has skyrocketed.

“Nationally, they are getting 215 calls a month for e cigarette poisoning, half are under 5 years old,” said Maria Azzarelli the tobacco control coordinator for the Southern Nevada Health District.

Azzarelli says many electronic cigarettes are refillable and come with a bottle of liquid, which is basically nicotine juice. The juice is poisonous when absorbed through the skin or ingested. It could lead to death.

“What nicotine does, it is a neurotoxin and it is also a vasoconstrictor meaning it immediately constricts blood vessels, and leads to cardiac issues,” Azzarelli said.

Vype Vapor opened two months ago on Lake Mead Boulevard near Tenaya Way. The store sells only electronic cigarettes, and the owner Susan Lewis says it is up to parents to keep their kids away from dangerous chemicals, just like they would medications.

“Parents left the bottles around and they drank it. In all cases, all 248 cases, the children got their hands on the e liquid bottle saw M&M or something flashy and drank it. It is poisonous. You can&#39 t ingest it like that,” Lewis said.

Lewis says their e juice can be made and purchased with different levels of nicotine in it, but the health district says right now there is no way of checking.

“There are also no quality control standards. So, right now, the amount of nicotine that is labeled on the bottle of juice, may not be what is in them,” Azzarelli said.

Azzarelli says any amount of nicotine can be dangerous, especially for children.

Ban on e-cigarettes urged in public places

V2 cigs review & coupon: complete v2 electronic cigarette brand review

The popularity of electronic cigarettes has sparked a debate on whether the battery operated devices should be banned in bars, restaurants and other public venues where tobacco smoke is prohibited.

Air Canada made headlines this week after a businesswoman on a flight from Calgary to Toronto claims that a fellow passenger puffed on an e cigarette in the cabin.

Transport Canada has no specific regulations, but Air Canada has a policy that forbids the use of e cigarettes on its aircraft.

We can assure you that had the crew been aware of or alerted during the flight about the purported use of an e cigarette on board, they would have addressed the matter immediately with the customer, said spokeswoman Angela Mah.

The alleged incident speaks to the legislative grey area that surrounds electronic cigarette use in Canada.

The federal government faced with insufficient research on the health affects of the devices has so far refrained from regulating how the products are used or sold.

In Alberta, provincial authorities say there are still more questions than answers in terms of potential health concerns.

Current anti smoking legislation, which includes an outright ban on tobacco use in bars, applies to tobacco products in the traditional sense as there is more scientific evidence as to their health impacts, said Alberta Health and Wellness spokesman Matthew Grant.

There is not a lot of health information on e cigarettes (and) we continue to monitor studies as they are available.

For now, it is up to individual businesses to come up with their own policies. That means it might be acceptable to vape in a movie theatre but not in a shopping centre food court or bowling alley.

The Canadian restaurant industry is seeking regulatory guidance and clarity from provincial and federal authorities. Until that happens, it s wait and see, according to Mark von Schellwitz.

Our position is very neutral on this we just want to know where we stand so we can direct our customers accordingly, said von Schellwitz, who serves as the western Canadian vice president for the industry group Restaurants Canada, which represents thousands of eateries, bars, cafeterias and food service organizations.

The hope is that any prospective policy change will be made at a provincial level to avoid a confusing patchwork of e cigarette regulations across various municipalities, he added.

But some cities including Calgary are wading into the controversial issue. City council last month ordered a study into the health risks of e cigarettes after Coun. Diane Colley Urquhart, a nurse by trade, brought forward a motion to consult with health officials on possible bylaws.

E cigarette advocates argue that vaping is a harmless practice that acts as a safe substitute to tobacco by simulating smoking without the prospect of addiction or inhaling carcinogenic chemicals.

E cigarette users inhale vapours, which in some cases may contain a liquid nicotine solution.

While some believe the devices should be tightly controlled, proponents say they are a safer alternative to tobacco laden cigarettes and there is no need to hide them.

Keeping e cigarettes out of sight of the public is like camouflaging the fire exits, said Paul Bergen, a researcher in tobacco harm reduction and a consultant for the Electronic Cigarette Trade Association, a national organization representing retailers.

The Canadian Cancer Society disagrees. It supports banning the products indoors and prohibiting the sale of e cigarettes to minors to avoid normalizing smoking behaviour and hooking young people.

We just banned flavoured tobacco. Why would we allow such things on the market? said Angeline Webb, a senior public policy adviser for the society in Alberta.

We want to see some regulation in terms of advertising and promotion. Even if they are approved as a cessation device, e cigarettes still normalize smoking. The big concern is they undermine smoking bans.

With files from The Canadian Press