Increased electronic cigarette (e-cig) use among existing smokers is boosting the number of successful quit attempts, new research published in the British Medical Journal reveals.

The research found that while there was no evidence that e-cigs prompted more people to try and quit smoking, more people are successfully quitting as e-cig usage grows.

In fact e-cigs may have helped as many as 22,000 people in England give up smoking in 2015.

There was an overall increase in the success rate of those who reported a quit attempt, from 10.6% in the last quarter of 2006 to 18.6% in the first quarter of 2015.

Over the same period, current use of e-cigs among smokers increased from negligible to 21.3%, and e-cig use in a quit attempt also rose from negligible to 35.0%.

Growth in the use of e-cigs for quitting has also been associated with a decline in use of Nicotine Replacement Therapy products obtained on prescription.

It is estimated that 2.8 million people in the UK now use e-cigs.

Professor Robert West, of the health behaviour research centre at University Collage London, said: “England is sometimes singled out as being too positive in its attitude to e-cigs. This data suggests that our relatively liberal regulation of e-cigs is probably justified.”

Alison Cox, director of prevention at Cancer Research UK added: “E-cigs can play a role in helping people quit and the evidence so far shows e-cigs are much safer than tobacco. This study shows the positive impact they’ve had on helping people give up the deadly addiction.

“We’ll continue to fund research into e-cigs to build our understanding, and encourage people to combine the most popular method with the most effective – Stop Smoking Services. But this study reassures us of the promise these products have.”