Staff at Leeds criminal courts have been ordered to take action against anyone seen using fake cigarettes.
In a directive seen by the YEP, workers have been told the legal electronic fags – used by smokers who are trying to quit – could encourage “undesirable behaviour”.
Both pro-smoking and anti-smoking groups have criticised the move as “short-sighted”.
The court edict said the e-cigarettes were lawful and did not pose a health risk.
But it added: “It is highly probable that any electronic cigarettes would cause undesirable reactions in a number of court users.
“Many would be anxious or annoyed at what appeared to be a flagrant breach of the law, some would be encouraged to produce and light up their own cigarettes in the mistaken belief that smoking was tolerated in that particular building.
“In all cases, it is likely that protests or queries or undesirable behaviour would be generated.
“For that reason, Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service bans their use.”
It said anyone who refused to stop using them should “be treated in exactly the same way as anyone else who does not observe the conditions by which people are admitted to court buildings.”
A spokeswoman for charity Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) said: “Electronic cigarettes do not harm other people and they can potentially help smokers who are struggling to quit.
“It’s short-sighted and unreasonable. These cigarettes should not be covered by the smoke-free legislation.
“This guidance will potentially alienate a lot of people and could encourage some people to start smoking again.”
Simon Clark, director of campaign group Forest – Freedom Organisation for the Right to Enjoy Smoking Tobacco – added: “I would have thought the courts would want to encourage anyone trying to quit. It’s slightly short-sighted.”