A leading charity has called on Health Minister Edwin Poots to ban the sale of electronic cigarettes to under 18s.
The NI Chest Heart & Stroke said it is convinced that only adult smokers who have tried all other supports such as nicotine replacement therapy, should begin to think about using them.
Andrew Dougal, chief executive of the charity, said they should only be considered as a short-term option.
“E-cigs contain nicotine which is a most powerful drug. It is more addictive than even heroin,” he said.
A ban is to be imposed on the sale of e-cigs to under 18s in England. And fines will also be imposed on reckless adults who buy cigarettes for children – a fixed penalty of £50 or up to £2,500.
The NI Chest, Heart & Stroke said Mr Poots should take a harder line on electronic cigarettes in Northern Ireland.
“Bearing in mind the terrible suffering and early death caused by smoking £50 is a derisory amount,” added Mr Dougal.
The Government has announced plans to amend the Children & Families Bill in relation to legislation to combat young people smoking.
Mr Dougal said: “In the interests of the efficient and effective management of legislation the NI Executive & NI Assembly might choose to utilise this bill to enforce these safeguards in Northern Ireland at a much earlier time.
“In all four legislative bodies in the UK a common aim is at all costs to protect the health of our children and of generations to come.”