New research has raised concerns about the health impacts of e-cigarettes and their use by young people who are already exposed to traditional cigarettes, despite industry claims.

The research comes as the ACT Government continues to process more than 240 submissions regarding potential changes to the use and sale of e-cigarettes in the territory.

An academic study published in the BMJ Open journal on Thursday found e-cigarettes, also known as vaporisers, were “unlikely to make a major direct contribution to adolescent nicotine addiction, despite regular use being associated with tobacco consumption”.

“Many experimental e-cigarette users have never smoked a cigarette, although most regular e-cigarette users had also smoked tobacco,” the report said.

“Public health professionals and policy-makers are increasingly concerned that e-cigarettes will act as a new gateway into nicotine addiction and tobacco use for some young people if e-cigarettes are taken up widely at a population level.”

E-cigarette manufacturers argue the products have the potential to reduce smoking-related diseases by helping smokers to quit or by giving them a safer alternative to traditional cigarettes.

But the research, which surveyed primary and secondary school students in the UK, found young people were not adopting e-cigarettes as an effective means of quitting tobacco.

The nine authors said there was a potential for e-cigarette use to spread through the youth population and become normalised irrespective of socioeconomic status, ethnicity or gender.

“Future research is needed to understand the motivations behind young people’s experimentation with e-cigarette use and to understand the temporal relationships between use of e-cigarettes and tobacco,” the report said.

In a submission to the ACT Government, the national adult retail and entertainment body the Eros Association supported the restricted sale of e-cigarettes but said potential health benefits should not be ignored.

“There are many anecdotes which have now been provided by people who have reduced or ceased their use of smoked tobacco due to their use of a personal vaporiser,” said acting chief executive Robbie Swan.

“We believe that vaporisers also have an application outside of recreational use such as in mainstream medical and alternative medical practices.”

Another study, published in the Tobacco Control journal on Thursday, found some flavour chemical e-cigarette fluids were “sufficiently high for inhalation exposure by vaping to be of toxicological concern”.

“Regulatory limits should be contemplated [for] ingredient identification, levels of some of the more worrisome chemicals, and total flavour chemical levels,” the report said.

“Flavoured e-cigarette products do not typically list the levels of specific flavour chemicals present, and most do not identify the major flavour chemicals present.”

The report, which assessed multiple flavour types, said high doses of some flavour chemicals may be safe when ingested but unsafe when inhaled.

A discussion paper released by the ACT Government in November outlined concerns some e-cigarettes are incorrectly labelled as nicotine-free. One study found the poison was present in 70 per cent of the products on sale in NSW.

In a submission to the ACT Government, the Cancer Council ACT said young children could be exposed to the potential harms of e-cigarettes because they had “not been subject to appropriate safety assessment”.

Despite this, electronic cigarettes come in a variety of flavours including fruit, confectionery, chocolate, “red bull” and other flavours that appeal to children.

The submission noted that a number of major tobacco companies had entered the e-cigarette market including Philip Morris, Reynolds America, Japan Tobacco International, Imperial Tobacco and British American Tobacco.

E-cigarette manufacture Nicoventures, which was established by British American Tobacco in 2010, welcomed the move to “introduce a legislative framework which will allow access to regulated e-cigarette products”.

“To help smokers wishing to quit or reduce their tobacco intake, e-cigarettes should be as freely available as nicotine replacement therapies such as patches and gums and as well as tobacco products,” said director of regulatory affairs Stephen Jenkins.

The ACT government was expected to release a response to discussion paper submissions in early 2015 but has been delayed by a surprising amount of community feedback.

Extracted if from from the Sydney Morning Herald.