Smokers who used vaping as part of a quit attempt have some of the highest success rates, an independent report from Public Health England has found.

Nicotine vaping products were the most popular smoking cessation aid in England in 2020 – used by 27.2%, compared with 15.5% who used over the counter nicotine replacement therapy (or 2.7% on prescription), and 4.4% who used varenicline.

The PHE report, which looked at several different datasets, said evidence collected over a number of years suggests that as the use of vaping products in quit attempts increases, the number of successful quits in England also increases.

It also pointed to data from recent systematic reviews showing that vaping products were significantly more effective for helping people stop smoking than NRT.

Data from April 2019 to March 2020 showed 221,678 quit dates were set with smoking cessation services 51% of which had quit four weeks later.

The highest quit rates (74%) were seen with those using a licensed medicine and a vaping product one after another.

Quit rates involving a vaping product were higher than any other method in every region in England ranging from 49% to 78%, PHE said.

It is too early to assess the full effect of the pandemic on quit rates as much of the data is pre-Covid, the report concluded.

Professor John Newton, director of health improvement at PHE, said: ‘The evidence has been clear for some time that, while not risk-free vaping is far less harmful than smoking.’

Professor Ann McNeill, professor of tobacco addiction at King’s College London, and lead author of the report said the report draws together findings from a number of sources and concludes that nicotine vaping products are an effective way of successfully quitting smoking.

‘What is concerning is that smokers, particularly those from disadvantaged groups, incorrectly and increasingly believe that vaping is as harmful as smoking. This is not true and means fewer smokers try vaping,’ she said.

The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) last year released a drug safety update warning doctors to be alert to possible adverse reactions from vaping among patients with respiratory problems.

In October last year, the Action on Smoking Health (ASH) charity reported that the number of people using e-cigarettes had fallen year-on-year for the first time since 2012.

A version of this story first appeared on our sister title, Pulse.