Findings of a new study published in the British Medical Journal show that e-cigarettes may have helped about 18,000 people in the UK to quit smoking, suggesting that the device is indeed helpful for smokers who want to quit the unhealthy habit.

In April this year, Britain's Royal College of Physicians (RCP) said that using electronic cigarettes is an effective smoking cessation method, a conclusion that other experts opposed. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reiterated its stand regarding the lack of evidence to support the safety and effectiveness of vaping. Findings of the new study, however, appear to support the views of the RCP.

For the study published on Sept. 13, researchers looked at data from the Smoking Toolkit study, which has the latest data on smoking and smoking cessation in England, as well as data from Stop Smoking Services.

Although the researchers did not find direct evidence that the device prompted more smokers to quit, they found that the increase in the number of people who use e-cigarettes correlates with the number of people who successfully stopped smoking.

"With quit attempts at 32.5% of eight million smokers (2.6 million) in 2015, and prevalence of e-cigarette use in quit attempts at 36% in that year, this equates to 54 288 additional short to medium term quitters in 2015 compared with no use of e-cigarettes in quit attempts," wrote study researcher Robert West, from the Health Behaviour Research Center at the University College London, and colleagues.

"We would expect up to two thirds of these individuals to relapse at some point in the future, so we would estimate that e-cigarettes may have contributed about 18 000 additional long term ex-smokers in 2015."

Makers of e-cigarettes contend that their products are less harmful than cigarettes. They say that e-cigarettes do not only provide an alternative to traditional tobacco products but may also help people quit smoking, a deadly habit associated with a range of diseases such as respiratory conditions and cancers.

The U.S. has more conservative views on the use of e-cigarettes as a smoking cessation tool. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) wants to investigate and regulate claims of e-cigarette makers. The agency is concerned that e-cigarettes are not completely safe and that they may get young users addicted to nicotine.

"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," West said.

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