BUSINESS is booming for three of East Lancashire’s biggest electronic cigarette companies.

Totally Wicked, Liberty Flights, and The Electronic Cigarette Company have all reported significant growth since opening in 2008 and 2009.

They now employ hundreds of staff between them, have stores across the world, and are still growing.

A report released this week found the number of people using the devices, known as e-cigarettes, tripled since 2012 in Britain and now exceeds 2.1 million.

Just over half of all smokers and ex-smokers have tried one, while one per cent of non-smokers have taken them up, health charity Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) said.

Blackburn firm Totally Wicked began life in a small office in Lower Darwen six years ago.

Today, it employs around 100 staff in the UK, and has offices and shops in the USA and Germany.

Company director Fraser Cropper said: “The business has grown rapidly not only due to the popularity of electronic cigarettes but also due to the high priority placed by Totally Wicked upon sourcing excellent products, bringing as much manufacturing in house to the UK as possible, and focusing squarely on customer service.”

Totally Wicked’s sister company, The Electronic Cigarette Company (TECC), has sold more than 400,000 products since 2008.

From its base at Shadsworth Business Park, the company sells products online and ships them across the UK.

Liberty Flights, of Grimshaw Street, Darwen, was established as an internet business in 2009, and now has 17 stores across the country, including Clitheroe, Darwen, Barrowford, and Rawtenstall. After starting with two employees, the firm now employs more than 100.

Head of marketing Tom Forshaw said: “We expect to keep growing. We have 17 retail outlets and that’s growing on an almost weekly basis.

“Several commentators have said e-cigarettes are a gateway to smoking, but ASH has given us evidence to the contrary.”

Dr Tom Smith, the Lancashire Telegraph’s health columnist, said: “It’s all very well saying e-cigarettes are safer, but you’re still inhaling nicotine, which is quite a poison.”