Almost 900,000 smokers in England have used e-cigarettes in order to break their habit, a new study has suggested.
Researchers at University College London have estimated that 891,000 people have used one of the devices when trying to stop smoking in 2014.
This was opposed to using prescription medicine or receiving behavioural support.
Around 8.46million adults smoke cigarettes in England. Around 37 per cent attempted to stop in 2014, with 28.2 per cent using an e-cigarette as an aid.
The study follows separate research showing that the chance of quitting rises by up to 50 per cent when an e-cigarette is used, compared with smokers who used traditional products such as nicotine gum or patches.
The long term rate of quitting smoking cigarettes rises from around 5 per cent to 7.5 per cent when e-cigarettes are used – amounting to around 22,000 people, according to the new study published in the journal ‘Addiction.’
Professor Robert West, who led the research team, said that the technology appears to help a “significant” number of smokers to stop, who would not have done otherwise.
However he said that the figure is not as high as “some e-cigarette enthusiasts claim.”
Professor West added that the research goes against the idea that e-cigarettes undermine quitting if smokers use them to cut down, and are a gateway into smoking.
“These claims stem from a misunderstanding of what the evidence can tell us at this stage, but this is clearly something we need to watch carefully.“
Professor Peter Hajek, director of the Tobacco Dependence Research Unit at Queen Mary University of London who was not involved in the study, said that the devices have the potential to reduce fatalities linked to smoking.
He added that it was “unfortunate” that specialist smoking cessation services are currently not offering e-cigarettes, and are seeing a drop in interest.
“This is unfortunate, as it is likely that even more smokers would switch to vaping successfully if e-cigarettes were combined with behavioural support that the services provide. Hopefully, findings like this will encourage the services to start offering e-cigarettes as a part of their overall toolkit.”
The data was compiled since the second quarter of 2011, by The Smoking Toolkit Study backed by organisations including the Department of Health and Cancer Research UK.
A separate study by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed that 2.2 million people in the UK use e-cigarettes.
Put together using the ONS Opinion and Lifestyle survey, data indicated that half of people who used e-cigarettes did so to quit smoking. Just over a fifith said they felt that e-cigarettes were less harmful than tobacco versions.
However, despite vaping being cheaper on average, only 9 per cent cited this as their reason for using the devices.
The same number of people said they vaped because it meant they could stay indoors.