GENEVA - E-cigarettes, which pose serious health risks, are being “aggressively marketed” to young people and in large parts of the world there are no rules in place to protect children from their harmful effects, UN health agency WHO warned on Thursday.

WHO said that 88 countries have no minimum age at which e-cigarettes can be bought and 74 countries have not implemented any e-cigarette regulations.

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called on countries to ramp up prevention measures, saying that “kids are being recruited and trapped at an early age to use e-cigarettes and may get hooked to nicotine”.

Teen users spiking

Children aged 13 to 15 worldwide are using e-cigarettes at rates higher than adults, WHO research has found, and in the United Kingdom the number of young users has tripled in the past three years.

The UN health agency said that the products generate carcinogenic substances, increase the risk of heart and lung disorders and can affect brain development.

WHO also warned that the tobacco industry “funds and promotes false evidence” to argue that e-cigarettes reduce harm, while at the same time “heavily promoting these products to children and non-smokers and continuing to sell billions of cigarettes”.