Smokers are twice as likely to successfully quit with e-cigarettes than with nicotine patches or gum, according to a new study.

The randomised controlled trial was the first of its kind to compare traditional nicotine-replacement therapy (NRT) with e-cigarettes, which are not licensed medicines.

All participants were also given behavioural support.

By the end of the year, 18 percent of the e-cigarette users had successfully quit smoking, compared to 10 percent of the NRT group.

Professor Peter Hajek from Queen Mary University of London who led the study said:

“Although a large number of smokers report that they have quit smoking successfully with the help of e-cigarettes, health professionals have been reluctant to recommend their use because of the lack of clear evidence from randomised controlled trials. This is now likely to change.”

The NRT group were more irritable, found it harder to concentrate and reported more incidence of nausea than the e-cigarette group .

By the end of the year, 80 percent of the e-cigarette users were still vaping and only 8 percent of the other group were still using NRT products.

Professor Hajeck said that e-cigarettes are ‘unlikely to be totally safe’ and if long-term risk was generated, it would be better to not use anything at all.

“Now the positive aspect is that we know from studies of nicotine replacement therapy that some heavy smokers need that crutch for longer to protect them from relapse.

“They will get quite a bit of benefit in that they will avoid feeling miserable and having urges to smoke and feeling there is something missing in their life and they will not put on weight, which these type of heavy smokers do, which puts them at risk of diabetes and so on.”

Ann McNeill, Professor of Tobacco Addiction at Kings College London said:

“Smokers trying to quit have been choosing e-cigarettes over other types of support for some time. The research indicates that health professionals and Stop Smoking services should reach out to smokers who want to use e-cigarettes and support them in making this life-changing step.”