Firms making e-cigarettes could be ripping off customers - with research showing refill cartridges are being sold for around £1.50 (NZD$3), despite costing only about 4p (8cents) to produce.
This means customers are paying roughly 37 times the cost price, when typically consumers pay around eight times the cost of manufacturing a product.
Now campaigners have raised concerns that the mark-up means taxpayers could lose out if the NHS finalises a deal thought to be under discussion for British American Tobacco to supply prescription e-cigarettes.
Jonathan Isaby, chief executive of the TaxPayers' Alliance, said: 'The NHS has a terrible record of negotiating a good price, despite its scale as a buyer.
'It would be important to remind those involved in the negotiation that in times like these there is absolutely no scope for the NHS to tie itself to a contract which delivers anything but the best value.'
E-cigarette cartridges contain around 1.5ml of liquid and need replacing every few days at the cost of around £1.50 each.
Using materials available on the internet, it is possible to make enough liquid to fill a cartridge for around 4p - but wholesale prices mean they are likely to cost even less for major firms to make. However Simon Jordan, who owns e-cigarette subscription service Rokfri, claimed many firms simply price products so they are cheaper than cigarettes - which carry duty of at least 16.5 per cent plus VAT - rather than in proportion to what they actually cost to produce.
Yesterday Dr Tim Ballard of the Royal College of GPs said: 'It is unclear if making e-cigarettes available on prescription is cost-effective for the NHS.' The Tobacco Manufacturers' Association declined to comment.
- Daily Mail