GENEVA: The tobacco industry “actively targets” teens with new tactics, and an estimated 37 million children aged 13 - 15 use tobacco as a result of that, according to a World Health Organisation (WHO) report that was released Thursday, Anadolu Agency (AA) reported.

The report warned that “in many countries, the rate of e-cigarette use among adolescents exceeds that of adults.”

In the WHO European region, 20 percent of 15-year-olds surveyed reported using e-cigarettes in the past 30 days, it said.

The report underlined that despite significant progress in reducing tobacco use, the emergence of e-cigarettes and other new tobacco and nicotine products present a “grave threat” to youth and tobacco control.

“History is repeating, as the tobacco industry tries to sell the same nicotine to our children in different packaging,“ WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement accompanying the report.

“These industries are actively targeting schools, children and young people with new products that are essentially a candy-flavoured trap,“ said Tedros. “How can they talk about harm reduction when they are marketing these dangerous, highly-addictive products to children?”

The report said more than 70 percent of youth e-cigarette users would quit if the products were available only in tobacco flavor, rather than enticing flavors like candy and fruit.

“These industries are intentionally designing products and utilising marketing strategies that appeal directly to children,“ Ruediger Krech, WHO director of health promotion, said in the statement. “The use of child-friendly flavours like cotton candy and bubblegum, combined with sleek and colourful designs that resemble toys, is a blatant attempt to addict young people to these harmful products.”

The “deceptive tactics” underline the immediate need for “strong regulations” to protect young people from a lifetime of harmful dependence, said the report.

The WHO urged governments to protect young people from the uptake of tobacco, e-cigarettes and other nicotine products by banning or tightly regulating the products.