There's a warning that e-cigarettes are leading to a 'whole new generation of children' being addicted to nicotine in Ireland.
It comes after a study found that e-cigarette use among teenagers rose sharply in four years.
The research among over 4,400 teenagers found that 22.1% used nicotine products - 5.1% e-cigarette only, 7.7% conventional cigarettes only, and 9.3% dual-users of e-cigarettes' and conventional cigarettes.
The study uses a survey carried out in 2018, and compares to a separate study back in 2014 that showed just 3.2% of 16-17 year olds were e-cigarette users.
On today's Newstalk Breakfast, Chris Macey from the Irish Heart Foundation said the results 'underpin' other research carried out on e-cigarette use among teenagers.
He said: “A [Health Research Board] study published in November showed teens who use e-cigarettes are 3-5 times more likely to start smoking, than teens who never used them. That’s really deeply concerning, and should be to everyone in Ireland.
“We’ve very effectively dealt with the teen smoking problem in this smoking - now we’re in the throes of a readdiction of a whole new generation of children in Ireland."
Mr Macey said there can be a use for e-cigarettes in terms of a harm reduction tool for smokers who can't quit through other methods.
However, he said: "The HRB research has found that there are health harms associated with e-cigarettes, and they’re not any better as a nicotine cessation device than established nicotine replacement therapies.
“We need to protect children from addiction, but we do need to maximise this as a harm reduction impact for long-term smokers… it’s difficult when you’ve got child-friendly flavours and marketing tactics by big e-cigarette companies, controlled by big tobacco.”
'Something that should be illegal'
Joe Dunne, spokesperson for Respect Vapers, said that many teenagers who vape are previous smokers.
However, he said e-cigarettes simply shouldn't be sold to anyone under 18.
He argued: "We’ve been asking for a ban on vaping being sold to under-18s for the past 7-8 years. This is something that should be illegal: kids should not be able to get their hands on vapes or cigarettes.
“If you look at the UK, they made it illegal in 2015… their rates are down at an all-time low. We do advocate that vaping should not be sold to under-18s.
"But we also need to look at the help it’s doing for people - 250,000 people in this country used vaping to stop smoking. That’s an astronomical number."