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Chinese children learning to smoke with candy-flavored e-cigarettes

A man uses an E-cigarette, an electronic substitute in the form of a rod, slightly longer than a normal cigarette, in this illustration picture taken in Paris, March 5, 2013. A changeable filter contains a liquid with nicotine and propylene glycol. When the user inhales as he would when smoking, air flow is detected by a sensor and a micro-processor activates an atomizer which injects tiny droplets of the liquid into the flowing air, producing a vapour. The E cigarette is powered by a rechargeable battery.  REUTERS/Christian Hartmann (FRANCE - Tags: HEALTH SOCIETY SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY) - RTR3ELVI

A man uses an E-cigarette, an electronic substitute in the form of a rod, slightly longer than a normal cigarette, in this illustration picture taken in Paris, March 5, 2013. A changeable filter contains a liquid with nicotine and propylene glycol. When the user inhales as he would when smoking, air flow is detected by a sensor and a micro-processor activates an atomizer which injects tiny droplets of the liquid into the flowing air, producing a vapour. The E cigarette is powered by a rechargeable battery. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann (FRANCE - Tags: HEALTH SOCIETY SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY) - RTR3ELVI  (REUTERS/Christian Hartmann)

E-cigarettes are reportedly being used to get children hooked on smoking in China, where the average age for first-time smokers is under 11.

The sale of e-cigarettes is unregulated in China, Forbes reported, where candy-flavored versions are being sold to children for as little as $3.

“Some campaigners worry that e-cigarettes are gaining popularity in China before awareness of tobacco’s dangers has become widespread,” an Economist report said, according to Forbes.

Researchers at Hong Kong Council on Smoking and Health recommended a total ban on e-cigarettes, warning that e-cigarettes targeting children could lead to a “tobacco epidemic,” Forbes reported.

There’s debate in the U.S. over the use of e-cigarettes in youth as well. A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that e-cigarette use tripled among middle and high school students, becoming the most commonly used tobacco produce among that age group.

“Currently there is about 4.6 million students who report using any form of tobacco,” said Brian King, deputy director for research translation at the CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health. “About 2.5 million of those are e-cigarette users.”

“No form of tobacco — whether it’s combustible, incombustible or electronic — is safe for youth to use,” King said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.