A public health report has scotched concerns that e-cigarettes could be a gateway for children to start smoking tobacco products.

The study, commissioned by Public Health England, found no evidence that underage users of e-cigarettes will go on to smoke conventional cigarettes.

Carried out by Linda Bauld, professor of health policy at the University of Stirling, the report stated: “We could not identify any evidence to suggest that non-smoking children who tried e-cigarettes were more likely to then try tobacco.”

Nikhil Nathwani, managing director of e-cigarettes company Nicolites, welcomed the report. He said: “We have unequivocally maintained that e-cigarettes should be aimed at the adult market and are intended for those smokers who are looking for an alternative to cigarettes.

“We are very pleased to see a robust academic report finding no evidence that children who might get their hands on these products will go on to smoke tobacco.”

The e-cig market represents a huge profit opportunity for independent retailers. In 2013 it was worth £193m and it is estimated it will grow to £340m by 2015. However, regulation is expected to tighten up significantly over coming years.

Last month, an NHS survey in Wales found “a few” pre-teen girls had experimented with e-cigs but there was no evidence of widespread addiction.

Mark Stubbs, of Dereham News in Dereham, Norfolk, welcomed the Public Health England report, and said his store’s policy is only to market e-cigarettes to over-18s.

“We don’t really get any young people trying to buy e-cigarettes or even asking about them. It’s mainly adults who smoke and are trying to quit.”