Juul has been portrayed by ministers as a leader in combating youth vaping, but has settled lawsuits in the US that claim it targeted teenagers

The government has been criticised for its “completely inappropriate” endorsement of an e-cigarette manufacturer blamed for fuelling an “epidemic” of underage vaping in the US.

Juul Labs was promoted in an official briefing circulated by the Department of Health and Social Care about the prime minister’s plan to close a loophole allowing free samples to be given to children.