ANTI-SMOKING groups in Scotland have spoken of an urgent need to regulate the use of e-cigarettes to avoid creating a new wave of addiction.

The Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Authority (MHRA) is due to publish guidance next month which could effectively ban their use across the UK.

It is considering the re-classification of e-cigarettes as medicines, which would effectively take them off the shelves until they have had many years of clinical trials and testing, similar to pharmaceutical products. The EU has already issued a similar directive.

The chief executive of Ash Scotland, Sheila Duffy, said the charity does not support a ban on e-cigarettes as they could potentially help smokers move to a "less risky" product.

However she expressed concern that companies driven by profit were creating a "market for another addictive product".

Each year 13,500 people die from smoking-related illnesses in Scotland, which amounts to one in five of all deaths in Scotland.

Ms Duffy said: "Quitting tobacco is the single best thing a smoker can do to improve their health. We do not support banning e-cigarettes as they could help many smokers to move to a less risky product. However e-cigarettes are produced by commercial companies, with a profit motive."

According to Ash the number of people using e-cigarettes has more than doubled from 3% in 2010 to 7% in 2012. However they are not endorsed by MHRA or National Institute for Clinical Excellence (Nice).

Some experts believe that regulators have not acknowledged the lower risk profile of e-cigarettes because of concern that a reduced harm message might deter people from trying NRT (nicotine replacement therapy).

Clive Bates, a former director of Ash, has said previously that e-cigarettes have a vital role to play in "tobacco harm reduction".

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: "We will await findings of the current MHRA and Nice guidance before considering what further advice on the use of products, such as e-cigarettes, is required."