Electronic cigarettes (e-cigs) do not act as a gateway into smoking, the first official statistics to be published on the fast-growing category have confirmed.

New figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) reveal that e-cigs are “almost exclusively used by smokers and ex-smokers”.

“Almost none” of the non smokers questioned for the survey had ever used an e-cig.

Just under 12% of current smokers use e-cigs as well as 4.8% of ex smokers - evidence that e-cigs are being “used mainly as smoking cessation aids and for the perceived benefits, compared with smoking tobacco,” the ONS added.

The same report also highlighted how overall smoking rates have fallen in recent years. Ten years ago 25% of Brits over the age of 16 smoked. In 2013 this number had fallen to 19%.

More men than women continue to smoke at 22% compared with 17%.

E-cig usage among adults in Britain has tripled over the past two years from an estimated 700,000 users in 2012 to 2.1m in 2014, according to figures from health charity ASH.