The uptake of e-cigarettes is increasing rapidly.

The popularity of e-cigarettes has blown traditional stopping smoking aids, such as patches or tablets, out of the water, according to analysts at Mintel.

The sale of e-cigarettes has increased at an astonishing clip of 340%, to an estimated £193m in 2013. By comparison, traditional non-smoking alternatives rose by only 1.7% to reach a value of £131m.

Mintel's research entitled 'Smoking Cessation and E-cigarettes - UK - 2014' showed a third of smokers agreed e-cigarettes were a good way to cut down rather than quit smoking. They give people a nicotine hit without the toxins found in tobacco.

However, 20% also thought these cigarettes would only be considered safe once the NHS approved them.

One in 10 smokers, and those who used to smoke, agreed they encouraged people to start smoking, especially those aged between 16 and 24.

Mintel's senior personal care analyst, Roshida Khanom, said: "The rise in popularity of e-cigarettes has hampered growth in the value of the smoking cessation market, which saw modest growth in 2013.

"Although e-cigarettes are largely marketed as an alternative to smoking, smokers have been using them to cut down or quit smoking.

"But with the growing popularity of e-cigarettes, there is concern that young people may take up 'vaping' as a less harmful alternative to smoking.

"This concern has resulted in the Government announcement made in January that the sale of e-cigarettes to under-18s is to be made illegal."

New EU legislation to control 'vapers'

Meanwhile MEPs have also voted to bring in new legislation to control the type of e-cigarettes being sold in the different member states. In particular, users - or vapers as they are called - will no longer be able to get some of the reusable and refillable devices that give the biggest hit of nicotine.

One vaper user, Christena Heseltine, from Tyneside, is said to be outraged by the move to ban the high-nicotine devices.

She said: "I'll be forced to break the law, become a criminal, and that is scary.

"The vaping community has worked hard to make sure it's as safe as possible. We have worked with trading standards to ensure the nicotine juices are safe and properly labelled.

"But now if I go to the black market, I won't know whether the nicotine I'm getting is safe, so the work we have done will have been for nothing."