Six years after the NSW government banned the display of tobacco products in shopfronts, electronic cigarettes are being sold next to confectionery items in convenience stores and tobacconists. Public health advocates are concerned about a lack of regulation in the e-cigarette market, which is rapidly expanding in Australia. An audit of 1519 tobacco retailers by the NSW Cancer Council found e-cigarettes displayed in 77, or 5.1 per cent of outlets. They were typically displayed next to the cash register in promotional displays next to confectionery items or alongside nicotine replacement therapy products. The council's tobacco control unit manager, Scott Walsberger, said the findings demonstrated the urgent need to bring e-cigarettes under the legislation that applied to tobacco products. Under the Public Health Act 2008, tobacco products were banned from being displayed in shops and from having a sweet or fruity flavour that might encourage a minor to smoke. "Now we're seeing the same thing with electronic cigarettes," Mr Walsberger said. "They're right back over with the lollies, next to the cash register." E-cigarettes are battery-powered devices that produce a fruit-flavoured vapour that users inhale, and are often marketed as an aid to quit smoking. E-cigarettes that contain nicotine are illegal but they continue to be sold. In 2013, NSW Health found that 70 per cent of the samples it tested contained high levels of nicotine, even though it was not listed as an ingredient in their labels. Last week, the NSW government introduced legislation that prohibits the sale of e-cigarettes to minors. However, Greens health spokesman Jeremy Buckingham said these laws were just "tinkering at the edges" and that e-cigarette retailers were in breach of the law in selling products that contained nicotine and that looked like tobacco products. Many e-cigarettes are shaped to look like hookahs, pipes and cigars. The government declined to answer a question that Mr Buckingham put to it on notice, asking about the number of prosecutions in NSW. "The indication is that there has not been a prosecution in NSW for the sale of these products containing nicotine," Mr Buckingham said. "There's clearly been a massive failure by the NSW government to regulate the industry. "The industry is spreading alarmingly and it's not complying with the law and the NSW government is sitting on its hands." One in seven smokers aged 14 or over has used e-cigarettes in the previous 12 months, the latest survey by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare shows. Mr Walsberger said Australia was a few years behind the United States, where the availability of e-cigarettes ballooned from 3 per cent in 2010 to 7 per cent in 2011 and 31 per cent in 2012. "We're on the same trajectory, so as use increases across the age spectrum, we would also expect availability to increase," Mr Walsberger said. "We should address this issue now before it becomes too commonplace."