Nearly a quarter of 13- and 14-year-olds have tried e-cigarettes and close to half of 15- to 18-year-olds have used the nicotine delivery devices.
The products, which are aimed at helping people wean themselves off cigarettes, have been criticised over fears that they could “normalise” smoking again, encouraging more people to light up.
Campaigners have also warned that the long-term health effects of the devices, which contain nicotine and come in a range of flavours, are not yet known.
The findings come from a new poll of almost 500 people aged 13-18 by health charity ASH Scotland – the first survey into the attitudes of teenagers in Scotland to e-cigarettes.
Eight out of ten youngsters said they had heard of e-cigarettes – while 22 per cent of those who admitted to trying them had not previously tried a normal cigarette.
The survey found that awareness of e-cigarettes comes mainly from promotional activity, including display stands and media presence, and seeing them used by other people – including friends and relatives – in public places.
However, only 12 per cent of the teenagers thought e-cigarettes are “cool”, while 63 per cent disagreed and 25 per cent were not sure.
A total of 57 per cent agreed that young people could be influenced to try e-cigarettes by advertising.
ASH Scotland chief executive Sheila Duffy said: “Our survey shows teenagers are using e-cigarettes in significant numbers and it is particularly worrying that children as young as 13 and 14 are trying them.
“The findings underline our call for legislation to outlaw the sale of these devices to anyone under 18 and for tighter controls on their marketing.
“There is no doubt that e-cigarettes, which come in flavours such as milkshake and bubble-gum, are attractive to young people but many contain nicotine – a highly addictive substance – and currently there is a lack of regulation of their contents and promotion.”
She added: “We also need more research into whether the use of e-cigarettes, and in particular the way they are marketed and promoted, could provide a gateway to tobacco and could ‘renormalise’ cigarette smoking, something we must fight against as Scotland moves towards its goal of having a generation free from tobacco by 2034.”