Sales of e-cigarettes have risen 340% in a year, beating nicotine patches, lozenges and gum for the first time.
The total was up from £44million in 2012 to £193million in 2013, while sales of the traditional quit-smoking aids increased by just 1.7% to £131million.
A fifth of 16 to ­24-year-olds felt peers who shunned tobacco may be tempted by e-cigarettes.
Analyst Mintel said youths could think it is a less harmful alternative.
Spokesperson Roshida Khanom said: “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 2014 that the sale of E-cigarettes to under-18s is to be made illegal.”
From 2016, under EU law expected to be rubber stamped in April , E-cigarettes will be regulated, moved to medicine counters and have be up front about what is in them.
Khanomadded: “A brand that can become the spearhead for this can distinguish itself in the market and win consumer confidence, as well as becoming the leading brand to be prescribed by the NHS.”
A third of people smoke and one in seven puff on up to 20 cigarettes a day.
Men are the heaviest smokers with almost twice as many getting through 20 or more cigarettes a day, compared with women.