Health Canada is warning Canadians not to buy or use electronic smoking products, dubbed e-cigarettes.

The agency says the products have not been fully evaluated for safety, quality and efficacy and could pose a health risk.

An electronic cigarette looks remarkably like the real thing and includes a red light at one end to mimic the burning embers of a cigarette.

It has a chamber for storing liquid nicotine, which is heated to a mist and inhaled into the lungs.

Health Canada notes that the vapour may also contain propylene glycol, a known irritant, and other chemicals.

E-cigarette manufacturers say their products deliver nicotine without the tobacco and chemical additives that are linked to cancer and other health problems. But Health Canada says they may do nothing to help a smoker quit the nicotine habit.

"Although these electronic smoking products may be marketed as a safer alternative to conventional tobacco products and, in some cases, as an aid to quitting smoking, electronic smoking products may pose risks such as nicotine poisoning and addiction," the agency says in an alert.

"Nicotine is hazardous to the health and safety of certain segments of the population such as children, youth, pregnant women, nursing mothers, people with heart conditions, and the elderly," the agency adds

Health Canada says that anyone selling, importing, or advertising electronic cigarette products in Canada "must stop doing so immediately."

It's advising those Canadians who have used e-cigarette products and are concerned about their health to consult with a health care practitioner.

Health Canada reminds that it has authorized the sale of a number of legal smoking cessation aids, including nicotine gum, nicotine patches, nicotine inhaler, and nicotine lozenges.