Children as young as six have admitted trying electronic cigarettes, a survey conducted by social welfare group Caritas has found, bringing calls for tighter regulation of the devices and a ban on sales to under-18s. "We now know that children can easily access e-cigarettes and parents just do not know what's going on - and the government is not regulating it," said Lam Wai-fan, a social work supervisor for Caritas. Of 361 primary school children under the age of 12 surveyed, 3 per cent said they had tried e-cigarettes at least once. About 20 per cent said they knew where to buy the products. Caritas recommended the government legislate against the sale of e-cigarettes, including banning sales to those under 18. It also called for the labelling of all chemicals contained in the devices, while providing more guidance for parents on the side-effects on children. Caritas said schools should be mandated to deploy "preventative education". Dr Kelvin Wang Man-ping, an expert in public health and tobacco control at the University of Hong Kong, said that while no study had been conducted on the health effects of e-cigarettes on young children, concentrations of heavy metals such as lead were a particular concern. Stephen Kai Ping-chung, chairman of the Federation of Parent-Teacher Associations in Kwun Tong, said children looked at e-cigarettes as toys and would not understand the health risks. "Some e-cigarettes come with different flavours like coke, strawberry and lemon. It's sweet and children will be more curious to taste," Kai said. He argued that such flavourings could lead to addiction. The government is still deliberating on whether to regulate or ban e-cigarettes. A spokeswoman for the Health Bureau said: "Given the apparent health effect and hazards arising from the use of e-cigarettes, the wider long-term impact to young people and the recommendation of the World Health Organisation, we propose strengthening the existing legislation and prohibiting the import, manufacture, sale, distribution, and advertising of e-cigarettes." The Asian Vape Association, a lobby group set up by e-cigarette companies, previously told the Post that a government ban would be irresponsible without scientific proof, although it supported regulation of the devices. "It is irresponsible for the government to prohibit personal vaporisers with no scientific basis," a spokesman said. "If they are worried about harmful substances, they should regulate them instead of banning them."