Electronic cigarettes are set to soar in price under plans by Brussels to tax them at the same rate as tobacco.
Vaping will be brought into line with cigarettes and cigars as the EU tries to help governments to raise more money.
At the moment all EU countries impose an excise tax of at least 57 per cent on tobacco products, but most only charge VAT on e-cigarettes, at about 20 per cent.
With several EU capitals still struggling to balance the books, the commission in a report in December said e-cigarette taxes could have “significant long term budgetary implications” for national treasuries.
But experts say that a tax rise will damage public health because higher prices will discourage smokers from switching to vaping.
EU member states’ ambassadors agreed to take the first step last week by asking the European Commission to draft an “appropriate legislative proposal” in 2017.
The project is to be endorsed without further discussion when the bloc’s finance ministers meet on 8 March.
Global e-cigarette sales were about £5.8 billion last year. Analysts forecast they will grow to £35 billion by 2025 or 2030.
A recent report shows that in Britain about 20,000 smokers a year give up because of e-cigarettes — as many as quit through all other stop-smoking aids combined.
Researchers from University College London said some 37.3 per cent of the 8.46 million adult smokers in England had tried to give up in 2014, and of these, 28.2 per cent – or 891,000 – had used an e-cigarette, known as ‘vaping’, to help.
Previous research has found that e-cigarettes increase the chances of success by around 50 per cent compared with using no support or one of the traditional nicotine products such as gum or skin patch bought from a shop.
This raises the long-term success rates from around 5 per cent to around 7.5 per cent. The increased success rate amounts to an additional 22,000 people stopping who would otherwise have continued smoking.
Prof Robert West, who led the team, said while the numbers were not as high as some pro-vaping campaigners had claimed in the past, they were still significant.