The government has been urged to implement clear rules on the use of e-cigarettes in licensed premises.

Peter Marks, chief executive of the Luminar Group, noted that it is unusual for him to call for state "legislation and interference", as "we already have it coming out of our ears", the Publican's Morning Advertiser reports.

However, he stated that since e-cigarette shops are becoming an increasingly common fixture in towns and cities across Britain, tobacco companies believe this market offers a "huge growth opportunity".

This, he said, is creating a dilemma for major pub chains, as they are barred from displaying cigarettes and offering cigarettes in vending machines, as well as permitting their use, yet there are no similar restrictions on e-cigarettes.

Mr Marks pointed out that the products could offer a potential source of revenue for his organisation, if there is sufficient demand for them among pub-goers.

Nevertheless, he argued that if clear guidance on where vaping is permitted were introduced, any concerns over the issue among pub operators about tapping into this market would ease.

A number of pub operators, such as JD Wetherspoon, have already taken steps independently to ban the use of e-cigarettes in their establishments, partly because it can be difficult for staff to spot whether customers are vaping or smoking traditional cigarettes.