E-cigarettes may have helped 18,000 people in England give up smoking in 2015, according to new research published in the British Medical Journal.
Researchers at the Health Behaviour Research Centre at the University College London (UCL) analysed data from the Smoking Toolkit study, which provides the latest information on smoking in England, and data on the percentage of the smokers who set a quit date with Stop Smoking Services.
The study found no evidence that e-cigarettes prompted more people to quit but it was found that, as more people used e-cigarettes, more people successfully quit smoking.
It is estimated that 2.8 million people in the UK use e-cigarettes and are the most popular smoking cessation aid in the UK.
However, prescription medication and professional support from Stop Smoking Services are still thought to be the most effective way to quit smoking.
While only 450,000 people each year take up these services, a smoker is around three times more likely to quit than going cold turkey on their own.
Tobacco kills more than 100,000 people a year in the UK and is still the number one preventable cause of cancer.
Professor Robert West, Health Behaviour Research Centre at UCL, said: “England is sometimes singled out as being too positive in its attitude to e-cigarettes. These data suggest that our relatively liberal regulation of e-cigarettes is probably justified.”
Alison Cox, director of prevention at Cancer Research UK, added: “Giving up smoking can be really tough. It’s important to remember that getting support from Stop Smoking Services is still the most effective way to quit.
“E-cigarettes can play a role in helping people quit and the evidence so far shows e-cigarettes are much safer than tobacco. This study shows the positive impact they’ve had on helping people give up the deadly addiction.
The Department of Health and Public Health England have previously backed the use of e-cigarettes to help smokers quit in an alternative to other nicotine replacements.
However, other studies have been published that highlight the harm potentially caused by e-cigarettes, including research from the University of Athens that found e-cigarettes cause similar heart damage to smoking tobacco.