UK electronic cigarette (e-cig) usage has almost doubled in just two years, according to a new study by scientists at Imperial College London.

The Europe-wide study found that the proportion of people in the UK who had tried an e-cig had increased from 8.9% to 15.5% between 2012 and 2014 – higher than the European average of 11.6%.

However,consumer fears over the safety of the devices have also risen.

According to the research, the proportion of people across Europe who considered the devices dangerous had also nearly doubled, from 27% to 51%.

The growing e-cig category has been dogged with conflicting reports about product safety over the past two years.

Report author Dr Filippos Filippidis said: “This research shows e-cigs are becoming very popular across Europe – with more than one in 10 people in Europe now having tried one of the devices.

“However there is debate about the risks and benefits associated with e-cigs. For instance we don’t know whether we may start to see diseases emerge in 10-20 years’ time associated with some of the ingredients. We urgently need more research into the devices so that we can answer these questions.”

The findings come just days after new European Tobacco Product Directive laws governing the promotion and safety of e-cigs were enforced across the UK and Europe.

Existing and former smokers and those aged between 18-24 were among those most likely to have ever tried an e-cig, the research also found.