Vapes are better than nicotine-replacement patches and gums at helping smokers quit, influential researchers ruled recently.
Oxford University researchers found smokers using electronic cigarettes are up to twice as likely to give up the habit for six months, Daily Mail reported on Wednesday (23 November).
Cancer experts welcomed the report, which adds to the growing pile of evidence that shows e-cigarettes are effective quit-smoking tools.
However, they warned non-smokers not to take up vaping because they are a relatively new product and long-term health effects are still unknown.
Author Dr Nicola Lindson, a psychologist at the university, said the products carry only a small fraction of the risk of smoking but aren't risk-free.
Currently, the NHS advises that vaping can help smokers – though it is not available on prescription.
England is set to become the first country in the world to prescribe e-cigarettes to help smokers quit, if government plans are given go ahead.
The proportion of people vaping in the UK more than doubled this year, from 4% in 2021 to 8.6% in 2022.
Around 5% of US adults vape while recent surges in prevalence have largely been driven by young people taking up electronic cigarettes, prompting concern from some experts.
Earlier this month, respiratory paediatricians told Mail Online the colourful devices need graphic cigarette-style warnings slapped on them.
Despite the concerns around child use, Dr Lindson said, "E-cigarettes do not burn tobacco, and as such, they do not expose users to the same complex mix of chemicals that cause diseases in people smoking conventional cigarettes."
Evidence shows that nicotine e-cigarettes carry only a small fraction of the risk of smoking, he added.
The 290-page Cochrane Review included 78 studies with over 22,000 participants, 22 more studies since the last update in 2021.
They looked at data from smokers who were trying to quit and compared their success with e-cigarettes and other therapies over six months.
These included nicotine replacement therapy, such as patches and gums, varenicline — a medicine to help people stop smoking — and both nicotine and non-nicotine e-cigarettes.
Some studies also compared these success rates to having no support to quit. Researchers also looked at studies investigating the side effects of the therapies on or after at least one week of use.
Results showed that if six in 100 people quit by using nicotine replacement therapy, eight to 12 would quit by using electronic cigarettes containing nicotine. This means an additional two to six people in 100 could potentially quit smoking with nicotine-containing electronic cigarettes.
Lead author Dr Jamie Hartmann-Boyce said, "Electronic cigarettes have generated a lot of misunderstanding in both the public health community and the popular press since their introduction over a decade ago."
In studies comparing nicotine e-cigarettes to nicotine replacement treatment, significant side effects were rare. Nicotine e-cigarettes caused throat or mouth irritation, headache, cough, and feeling nauseous in users for up to the first two years. However, these effects appeared to diminish over time.
Michelle Mitchell, chief executive at Cancer Research UK, said, "We welcome this report which adds to a growing body of evidence showing that e-cigarettes are an effective smoking cessation tool. We strongly discourage those who have never smoked from using e-cigarettes, especially young people. This is because they are a relatively new product and we don't yet know the long-term health effects."
"While the long-term effects of vaping are still unknown, the harmful effects of smokin