The vapour from chemicals, ignited by electricity, contains small particles of metal, which could cause cancer, said Nopporn Cheanklin, deputy director-general of Department of Disease Control (DDC).

More than 20 countries have banned the import and sale of e-cigarettes, he said.

Nopporn said online advertisements suggesting e-cigarette could help smokers quit created misunderstandings among the public.

According to officials shisha could be more hazardous than traditional cigarettes because it contains higher amounts of tar and nicotine.

One official said shisha was six times more harmful than a cigarette.

The smoking devices have become popular among teenagers, who commonly use them at entertainment venues.

The Commerce ministry's Department of Foreign Trade (DFT) said it wanted to attach the ministerial regulation to the Export and Import of Goods Act to stop the entry of such smoking devices.

Citing research by the Department of Disease Control, DFT deputy director-general Parnjit Pisawong said the study found smoking shisha and e-cigarettes were harmful.

Although liquids from fermented fruits were used to fill the shisha, the burning process could lead to illness similar to that inflicted by cigarettes, she said.

They should be put in the same category as other smoking products when officials consider how to regulate them, the DFT deputy chief suggested.

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