The European Commission is considering taxing electronic cigarettes (e-cigs) in the same way as traditional cigarettes and other tobacco containing products, it has been revealed.

Such a move would likely prompt a sharp rise in prices and harm sales, critics have warned.

The commission has asked excise duty experts from across the EU to consider the “best way to achieve fiscal equal treatment” between e cigs and normal tobacco products, according to a document seen by The Financial Times.

Steep excise duties are currently levied on traditional cigarettes but not on e-cigs, making them a considerably cheaper alternative for many cash-conscious shoppers.

More than a third of e-cig users said that the lower cost was one of their main benefits, according to a recent Nielsen study.

UKIP deputy leader and e-cig user Paul Nuttall urged the British government to “stand up against” the measures.

“I am a great fan of e-cigs and UKIP has been very supportive of the practice because it is healthier and a source of jobs for innovative British companies,” he said.

“I have never seen a private pleasure that the EU does not want to tax. Of course this move will hike up the cost of vaping e-cigs, and thus push more people back to ordinary and less healthy cigarettes.”

Liz Freeborn, head of communications at Vype manufacturer Nicoventures, said: “We believe that given e-cigs do not contain tobacco, governments considering applying excise to the category should ensure the rate reflects the significantly reduced risk profile e-cigs provide compared to regular cigarettes.”

More than 2.1 million people are now thought to use e-cigs on a regular basis.