Officials from Britain have announced a ban on electronic cigarettes for people under the age of 18, citing a need for more thorough medical research surrounding the devices. Back in December, the European Union (EU) agreed to allow the sale of e-cigarettes as consumer products rather than as regulated medical devices.

"We do not yet know the harm that e-cigarettes can cause to adults, let alone to children, but we do know they are not risk-free. England's chief medical officer, Professor Dame Sally Davies, said in a statement. "E-cigarettes can produce toxic chemicals and the amount of nicotine and other chemical constituents and contaminants, including vaporized flavorings, varies between products meaning they could be extremely damaging to young people's health."

Electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes as they are commonly known, are battery-powered devices that release a dose of nicotine in aerosol form. With no added tobacco, e-cigarettes are regarded as less hazardous than cigarettes; however, critics fear these devices can act as a gateway for tobacco products. There is currently no law in the UK that prohibits people under the age of 18 from purchasing e-cigarettes, which have become highly popular among teens.

Lawmakers expect the law will be introduced as an amendment to the Children and Families Bill later this week. The law will also ban adults from purchasing tobacco products intended for people under the age of 18. It is estimated 95 percent of children from the UK between the ages of 11 and 15 got their cigarettes from someone over the legal age at least once in the past year. Adults who violate this law are subject to a £2,500 fine ($4,146.50).

According to the National Health Services (NHS), 100,000 people die each year as a result of a smoking-related illness in the UK, making it one of the biggest causes of death and illness. Prolonged smoking can increase our risk of over 50 adverse health conditions including emphysema and respiratory failure. Smoking also leads to 90 percent of lung cancer cases and can result in various cardiovascular issues including coronary heart disease and stroke.

Information released by the press in the UK this past November indicated that Europe could be on its way to regulating electronic cigarettes the same way it does tobacco products. A document recently leaked from the European Commission recognized the “risk that electronic cigarettes can develop into a gateway to normal cigarettes.” The NHS says e-cigarettes will be licensed and regulated as a medical aid to quit smoking by 2016.