Close to seven in 10 young people are unaware that e-cigarettes contain nicotine and cancer-causing chemicals, said a Health Promotion Board (HPB) survey, which polled 600 youth last year.
These findings were released yesterday as part of the agency's new campaign to raise awareness of the negative health effects of e-cigarettes, which were banned in 2017.
Benzene, a cancer-causing chemical found in e-cigarettes, can be found in car fuel, exhaust and detergents. Other harmful chemicals in e-cigarettes include nicotine, which is highly addictive and can affect brain development in youth; and formaldehyde, a toxic chemical found in embalming fluid.
The HPB campaign tries to educate the public that despite the attractive packaging and wide variety of flavours and scents, which make them appealing to both youth and adults, e-cigarettes, or Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (Ends), are unsafe for use.
The campaign runs until March on platforms such as social media and radio station Kiss92, and at selected institutes of higher learning.
Speaking at a roadshow at shopping mall Bugis+, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Health and Home Affairs Amrin Amin said: "Youth who have used e-cigarettes are more likely to become regular smokers. This is what is known as the 'gateway effect', where e-cigarette users eventually transition to smoking cigarettes, or continue to use both."
Mr Amrin debunked the notion that e-cigarettes are a healthier alternative to cigarettes or can help smokers to quit.
"Don't take chances. Be familiar with the facts, don't be seduced by half-truths or lies. It's your health we are talking about. E-cigarettes are not harmless."
He said there is a worrying global trend on the use of e-cigarettes, especially among young people.
"We have to ensure that our public and young know the facts, and understand the reasons... we have banned Ends."
The campaign is the latest move by the Government to curb smoking. This is the first time that HPB has launched a campaign focused on e-cigarettes.
There has been a ban on the import and sale of electronic vaporisers, or e-vaporisers, in Singapore since 1993, when all imitation tobacco products were prohibited.
E-vaporisers, which include e-cigarettes and e-cigars, are battery-powered devices that heat a liquid (called vape juice) containing nicotine, producing a vapour that is inhaled.
In February last year, it became illegal to buy, use or possess harmful or imitation tobacco products like e-vaporisers, with offenders facing fines of up to $2,000.
A Straits Times report earlier this month said that 67 people were caught using e-vaporisers in the last 10 months since they were outlawed. Another 245 were nabbed for selling the devices in the last five years.
Passers-by at the roadshow said it was disconcerting to find out about the chemicals in e-cigarettes.
Temasek Polytechnic student Sharifah Ahmed, 18, said: "Smoking is so widespread and it's a big problem to tackle. I guess e-cigarettes seem lighter in comparison, but I didn't know they also had bad chemicals in them."