An influential committee of MPs has launched a new inquiry into the UK e-cigarette market, in order to address “significant gaps” in knowledge about them.

The wide-ranging inquiry by the cross-party Science and Technology Committee will examine the impact on health, the suitability of current regulations and the financial implications of a growing market on public finances – raising the possibility that e-cigs might be subject to high levels of excise duty in the future.

According to official statistics, the use of e-cigarettes rose to an estimated 2.9 million adults in 2016, up from 0.7m in 2012, while conventional smoking fell to 7.6 million adult smokers during the same period.

Committee chair Norman Lamb MP said: “Almost three million people in the UK now use e-cigarettes, but there are still significant gaps in the research guiding their regulation and sale. They are seen by some as valuable tools that will reduce the number of people smoking ‘conventional’ cigarettes, and seen by others as ‘re-normalising’ smoking for the younger generation.

“We want to understand where the gaps are in the evidence base, the impact of the regulations, and the implications of this growing industry on NHS costs and the UK’s public finances.”

The committee is accepting written evidence from all interested parties until the deadline of 8 December. Submissions are expected to cover three broad topic areas, namely:

Health impacts, including the effectiveness of e-cigs as a ‘stop smoking’ tool and the uptake by young people

Regulation, including safety, marketing restrictions and the implications of Brexit on any variations in regulation between the UK and the EU

Finance, including the implications on NHS funding of rising e-cig consumption and the overall economic impact of the UK e-cigarette industry.

The Committee will also look into the growth of novel tobacco products, including ‘heat not burn’ brands such as Philip Morris’ IQOS, and their likely impact on human health.